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Last Updated:  Thursday, 13 March, 2003, 11:14 GMT
Analysis: UK assault on France

By Paul Reynolds
BBC News Online world affairs correspondent

The UK Government has launched a systematic attack on France for blocking a new resolution on Iraq.

It is a sign that Britain is determined to blame France if the resolution fails and Britain goes to war.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair
Tony Blair: Under pressure at home and abroad
The tactic - evident already on Wednesday when Prime Minister Tony Blair himself criticised France for its "No in all circumstances" position - came centre stage on Thursday.

The UK Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, deliberately stepped in front of the microphones in Downing Street and called a French decision to reject the latest British proposals "extraordinary".

It is extraordinary, to use Mr Straw's own word, for criticism to be made so openly.

Entente not cordial

The Entente Cordiale, which celebrates its 100th anniversary next year, is anything but cordial.

Mr Straw said that efforts to get a new resolution at the UN would continue possibly into the weekend but the feeling is growing in London that the effort is on the verge of failure.

In any event, Mr Straw said on Wednesday that he expected the "process" to end soon.

The comments of the Conservative Party leader, Iain Duncan Smith, indicating that Mr Blair was gloomy about a new resolution, were significant. He was speaking after a special meeting with the prime minister.

Mr Blair appears ready to strike out on his own and join the Americans.

He will try to see off his domestic critics with the force of his convictions and will divert the blame across the Channel. That is always an option for a British leader.

Six tests

The British proposals at the UN involve setting Saddam Hussein a series of tests to see if he is serious about disarmament. The idea is to entice doubters on the Council to support a new resolution.

These tests have been rejected by France, because Paris believes that the weapons inspectors should be doing the job and not the Council.

France is sticking to its position that war is not necessary while inspections are working.

One British test requires Saddam Hussein to make a public statement, in Arabic and therefore to his own people,saying that he has hidden weapons of mass destruction and will give them up.

This is perhaps the most difficult of the demands. The idea of Saddam Hussein going public with a humiliating climbdown and mea culpa is difficult to imagine.

Indeed, this demand brings to mind the demarche made by Austria to Serbia after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914. It was designed to be so harsh as to be rejected. War followed not long afterwards.


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