Thursday, 29 April, 2004, 14:16 GMT 15:16 UK
President Jacques Chirac has said any compromise in handing over sovereignty in Iraq would be "disastrous". The French leader called for a swift and unambiguous return of power, and said that the US must not maintain control behind the scenes.
"It is urgent today to return sovereignty to the Iraqis," he said. Earlier this week US Secretary of State Colin Powell said Iraq would have to defer to the coalition on some issues, even after the handover on 30 June.
But Mr Chirac said: "There is no possible solution that would lead to the reconstruction of Iraq without a genuine transfer of sovereignty under the effective control of the United Nations."
"What would be disastrous would be a compromise solution based on an ambiguity along the lines of: 'Right, the United Nations you go and stand up the front' but in fact nothing has changed and the coalition is really still in charge," he said.
The French leader said only a full handover would repair the "deep resentment" felt by many Iraqis at the current situation there.
Mr Chirac - who led opposition to the war in Iraq - said he expected the EU would largely agree with the UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who said an interim government could be chosen within the next month despite the "extremely worrying" security situation there.
France and the EU have been calling for a UN resolution setting out the exact terms on which power will be transferred on 30 June.
DEBKAfile Special Report
21 October 02
Addressing the French speaking nations summit that opened in Beirut Friday October 18, the first to take place in an Arab capital, French President Jacques Chirac made an important point: The war on terrorism, he said, should be fought without mercy, yet conducted with respect for human rights and the rule of law.
After hearing Chirac, the conference, attended by 41 heads of state, closed its doors on the rest of its deliberations.
The French president made time for the conference in a busy schedule. He leads international opposition to American military action against Iraq and any assault on the Saddam Hussein regime, fights with great courage for the rights of French energy firms in Central Asia and post-war Iraq - two causes which some regard as interdependent. At the same time, Chirac looks after his fallback positions. Sensing the Iraqi ruler is doomed whatever France may do or say, he is thinking of relenting on a UN Security Council resolution authorizing military action against a defiant Iraq Saddam depending of course on how well French oil interests are looked after in post-war Iraq.
The same applies to his championship of Yasser Arafat as the top dog of Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip. Sensing he is as unlikely to weather the American Middle East offensive any more than Saddam Hussein, Chirac has switched his support to Muhamad Dahlan, who lays claim to the succession after Arafat. There is less opposition to the Dahlan claim in Israel than might be expected given his record as ace terror master. Not only Labor foreign and defense ministers, Shimon Peres and Binyamin Ben Eliezer, would go along with this candidate, but even at least one member of prime minister Ariel Sharons staff.
However, the top Bush team refuses to hear Dahlans name, insisting he is first a foremost a terrorist. More than one US official has asked in astonishment how any Israeli can support the claim of the man who engineered the Karin-A arms smuggling operation. The answer leads to their chosen role model, Jacques Chirac.
In a typical two-faced maneuver, the French president was able to declare war without mercy on terror and on the same occasion honor the Hizballah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, by inviting him to the opening session of the Francophone summit. With unashamed cynicism, the conference organizers seated the head of one of the most lethal terrorist groups in the world among the senior religious ministers invited for the occasion. The French speaking bloc of nations thereby elevated Nasrallahs group, the Hizballah, to the rank of a new religion.
What different did it make that the Lebanese terror group was listed in Washington as a terrorist organization, one of whose leading lights, Imad Mughniyeh, figures on the FBIs 22 most wanted terrorists list for complicity in the September 11 suicide attacks in New York and Washington, and which gives sanctuary to at least 180 Al Qaeda fugitives from the Afghan War.
Nasrallah was able to listen with perfect equanimity to the French presidents call for a war on terror attended by respect for human rights. He knew that no one present, including the speaker, dreamed of applying those sentiments to him or considering the fate of the four Israelis whose kidnapping two years ago was engineered by his colleague Mughniyeh. No scrap of information has ever been made available to their families on the fate of the stolen men.
Chirac has never been conspicuously sensitive to Israeli human rights. But what about the French-Jewish journalist whom the organizers of the French speaking summit bundled roughly out of the conference hall for the heinous crime of filing a story to Israeli TV Channel 2 News in Hebrew!
The reporter, Gideon Kutz, arrived in Beirut with his fellow reporters in the French presidents party. Yet, while awarding full honors to a terrorist and kidnapper, Chirac held silent when his cultural associates of the French speaking world employed strong-arm tactics to remove and muzzle a fellow Frenchman and, moreover, a journalist.
Earlier this year, the privileged guests at the Beirut conference of French speakers showed their tender care for human rights at the end of a certain terrorist episode.
On March 12, a pair of armed Palestinians infiltrated northern Israel from Lebanon and, with expert, paramilitary precision, rained death on the traffic flowing along the Kabri-Matsuba stretch of the West Galilee highway. After sniping at passing vehicles from the cover of low bushes, they waited for the traffic to pile up and approached the stricken cars lobbing grenades. Finally, they shot dead the injured drivers and passengers at point blank range, leaving six Israelis dead and seven injured. While fleeing from the carnage, the killers were pinned down by Israeli forces and shot dead themselves from a helicopter gunship.
The next day, March 13, DEBKAfile revealed the perpetrators of the massacre as Lebanese Palestinians belonging to the elite killer outfit trained by the super terrorist Imad Mughniyeh as an arm of the Hizballah. The attack on the Galilee highway was a cooperative effort of Arafats followers and the Hizballah.
Israeli intelligence investigators soon discovered how the two infiltrators had climbed the electronic security fence Israel has strung along its border Lebanon: an extra-tall hydraulic ladder that the Lebanese Shiite terrorist group fashioned especially for this operation, enabling them to heave the terrorists over the fence without sounding the alarm.
A few months later, Israel offered to hand over to Lebanon the bodies of the two Lebanese Palestinians, relaying its message through the International Red Cross and later the UN. Israel undoubtedly hoped to gain points for its long campaign to recover Israeli bodies in Lebanese hands. But the Lebanese government denied any knowledge of the two men or any attack they may have carried out in Israel even after Israel posted photos of the two dead terrorists to Beirut.
Word then reached Israel, according to DEBKAfiles sources, that their relatives had appealed to Hizballah chief Nasrallah for information about the two Palestinians, who were last seen at a Hizballah base in south Lebanon. He too denied knowledge of the men or their mission. The story he said was an Israeli ruse to impugn his organization as terrorists.
But on the human
rights front so close to the hearts of the French president, his
Lebanese hosts and his guest of honor, we are left with two
distraught Lebanese Palestinian families who will never be told
what happened to their sons. On the other side of the border are
the grieving families of eight Israelis who went missing in Lebanon the navigator Ron Arad, who disappeared 16 years ago, three soldiers missing from the 1982 Sultan Yakub battle, the three troops kidnapped on the Israel-Lebanese frontier two years ago and presumed dead, and Elhanan Tannenboim who was abducted at around the same time.
Time drags on but none of these families are allowed the slightest ray of hope or sign that their loved ones are alive or dead. The likes of Sheikh Nasrallah and Yasser Arafat do not think in terms of human rights or even common humanity, while their friend and patron, Jacques Chirac, makes no such demands on them. Neither therefore is under any compulsion to part with the information for relieving the agony of uncertainty forced on these families. Lofty talk at an international conference is cheap. Fighting Middle East terrorism calls for real integrity.
Tuesday, October 22, 2002 Posted: 5:15 AM EDT (0915 GMT)
PARIS, France (AP) -- It sounds like political suicide: Alienate your most powerful ally, risk looking soft against an aggressive dictator, argue for bureaucratic deliberation over decisive action.
But French President Jacques Chirac's strident stand against a unilateral U.S. strike to topple the Iraqi government is making strong progress internationally -- and winning Chirac points at home.
Paris' policy, backed by fellow permanent U.N. Security Council members Russia and China, has had an impact in Washington. A revised U.S. proposal ensures there will be "consequences" if Iraq fails to comply with weapons inspectors, but stops short of directly calling for military action.
It was far from clear on Monday whether France and the United States would agree on the compromise resolution, but Paris' success in positioning itself into a pivotal role was praised domestically. "France has played its game quite wisely," said Jean-Francois Daguzan, a senior researcher at the Foundation for Strategic Research, a think-tank in Paris.
That game has been an international balancing act.
Paris has been opposed from the beginning to unilateral American action in Iraq and demanding that Washington get U.N. Security Council approval before sending in the troops. But the stance has been more subtle than flat-out opposition. Paris also proffered an alternative to U.S. plans to threaten military action unless Baghdad complies with U.N. weapons inspectors.
Instead, France suggested two resolutions: one demanding free access for inspectors, with the threat of a second resolution on what steps to take -- including military -- only if Baghdad failed to co-operate. "We have to first make sure the inspectors are allowed to do their work, and report on their mission to the international community," Chirac said on a trip to Amman, Jordan, on Sunday night.
At the same time, Chirac's government has had plenty of harsh words for Saddam Hussein, whom Washington accuses of developing weapons of mass destruction and harbouring terrorists. Chirac and Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin have repeatedly said that war must be only the last resort, but it is still an option -- keeping France free to support its most important ally should Washington go to war.
Paris has won the backing of war skeptics Russia and China, making it the central player among the five permanent members of the Security Council. Britain, the other member with veto power, supports the U.S. position.
"France has managed to optimise the leverage that U.N. Security Council permanent membership gives her," said Bruno Tertrais, a senior research fellow at the Foundation for Strategic Research.
The success of the French diplomacy on Iraq so far, however, is not a sure sign that Paris will be able to provide a counterweight to the United States in the future, experts say.
Other factors were also at work. Germany, for example, came out early in full opposition to war in Iraq, leaving no room to work with Washington and depriving it of a leadership position. With Britain in the U.S. camp, the path was wide for France to take a middle path.
France's power, however, is too limited in comparison to Washington to provide a consistently effective alternative, said Daguzan. "It's a day-to-day success," he said. "And if the United States decided to go (to war), it would be difficult to resist."
In the meantime, Chirac is reaping domestic benefits as well. His Iraq stance is considered to be a central factor -- along with in his government's strong showings in recent surveys.
According to a poll published in the weekly Journal du Dimanche on Sunday, 57 percent of respondents said they were "very satisfied" or "rather satisfied" with the president, a five-point increase from a month ago.
It's easy to see the policy's domestic appeal: it raises France's international profile, balances what many French see as American heavy-handedness and addresses general anti-war sentiment. Some French were triumphant.
"While annoyed by the unruliness of its ally, the Bush administration was forced to beat a retreat and come closer to France's position on Iraq," wrote Journal du Dimanche editor Jean-Claude Maurice in an editorial on Sunday. "We have rediscovered the voice of France," he wrote.