Dominique de Villepin Breakfast with Frost


Dominique de Villepin

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BBC Four Collections -

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specially chosen programmes from the BBC Archive.

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For this Collection,

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with influential figures

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of the 20th century.

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More programmes on this theme

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The French Foreign Secretary, Dominique de Villepin,

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won unprecedented applause at the United Nations last month

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for an impassioned speech against war on Iraq or immediate war on Iraq.

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France is convinced

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it speaks for the majority of the international community,

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certainly for the individuals in it if not all the governments.

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But how far will it go in defiance of the United States?

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'I met Mr de Villepin yesterday

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'and, in the magnificent setting of the French Foreign Ministry -

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'look at that setting there,

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'eat your heart out, Jack Straw -

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'we talked about whether France will try to veto the use of force

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'and whether that would do lasting damage

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'to its relationship with America.'

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But first, I asked him why he sees the situation so differently

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from our own Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw,

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who described Saddam's last-ditch decision to dismantle missiles

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as "a cynical trick".

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We believe that the key factor, the referee...

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..are the inspectors.

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The rule of the game is Resolution 1441,

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and the referee are the inspectors, Mr Blix and Mr El Baradei.

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They are the eye and the hand of the international community in Iraq.

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They know what's going on on the ground.

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You cannot say, "I want Saddam Hussein to disarm,"

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and at the same time, when he's disarming, say,

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"They're not doing what they should".

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Maybe they're not doing enough.

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That's exactly the job of the inspectors,

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and that's exactly what we are trying to get with them,

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to get more, to get the complete fulfilling of the programmes

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during the next days and months.

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What the US and the UK seem to be saying, though, in addition,

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is they're saying the things that are really important

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are the possible 8,500 litres of anthrax

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or 360 tonnes of chemical-warfare agents,

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that these are the important ones.

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Sir David, one year ago, almost all the experts were saying,

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"What's important is the nuclear programmes

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"and the ballistic programme".

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We know already, and Mr El Baradei said

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that in a couple of months he might be able to certify,

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that there is no nuclear programmes in Iraq.

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In the ballistic, we've seen the progress made through the missiles.

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Now we come to the biological and chemical programmes.

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We make progress also on these fields.

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We have a chance through the inspections

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peacefully...

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..to disarm Iraq, which is very important for us.

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Why? Because there is not only Iraq.

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We should not forget Iraq is one of the many countries

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that do possess weapons of mass destruction.

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And it is absolutely a very important challenge

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for the international community

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to be able to solve the Iraqi crisis peacefully,

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because what are we going to do next?

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Are we going also to make war with North Korea?

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Are we going to go to war to the other Middle East countries

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that do possess weapons of mass destruction?

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I think the use of force must be only, as President Chirac says,

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a last resort.

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But yesterday I noticed the Prime Minister was talking about

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the fact that although the people

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who appeased Germany, Hitler, in 1938 and so on were good people,

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that appeasement is always a mistake

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and implying that this thing of letting him go on,

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letting Saddam Hussein have the benefit of the doubt

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and go on for 120 days, is some form of appeasement.

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Is there any parallel?

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Are we in the same situation in Iraq?

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Can you make really a comparison between the two?

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I'm not saying that there is on one side

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the countries that want to act -

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the US, the UK, Spain -

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and the other side the countries that don't want to do anything.

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We are not a pacifist country.

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Remember, we are the first contributor of troops to NATO.

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We were in the past one of the leading countries

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that were in Bosnia and in Kosovo.

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We were first in Afghanistan.

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We had 70 soldiers that died in Bosnia.

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We are not pacifist.

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We are ready to take full responsibility.

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And we said if the use of force at one point is absolutely needed,

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then of course we might take these decisions.

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But the question is...

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And sometimes at night I wake up...

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..thinking, "Have we tried everything?"

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You see, peace is a very important thing.

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It's a very strong benefit for mankind.

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And we should only accept the use of force when we have tried everything.

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Have we tried everything? France says no.

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And I think that before you send, before the US send some boys in Iraq,

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we have to answer the question, is it necessary?

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Is it worth it?

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That's the two questions.

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If it is needed as a last resort, force is necessary.

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Since you feel so strongly, Foreign Secretary,

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you've been asked in the last day or two

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about the fact of in what circumstances or would you ever

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consider a veto in terms of this second resolution,

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because you feel so strongly,

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as you've been saying, about war and so on?

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And basically, your reply was once or twice, I read, that, basically,

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France wants to keep all its options open.

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So that means you haven't ruled it out.

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When we wrote together, the Security Council, Resolution 1441,

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what have we said?

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We've said that we should work through the inspection

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till when we find ourselves in a deadlock.

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And it is to the inspectors to make a report and say,

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"Well, we cannot work any more".

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Are we in such a situation? No.

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Do we need a second resolution? No.

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Are we going to oppose a second resolution? Yes.

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As the Russian and many other countries,

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we are going to take full responsibility, of course,

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because it's a very important matter.

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It is the world of the international community which is at stake,

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and we believe the UN should not be put in a position to just...

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put a rubber stamp on a decision that has already been made.

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You see, the calendar, the timetable of the international community

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may be not...

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the timetable of war.

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But you don't make war on a timetable.

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And do you think that the relationship

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between France and the United States

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can survive both at the highest level

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and also at the people level

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the tremendous bitterness that exists at the moment?

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I spend a lot of time in the States.

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I saw one thing where polls asked

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who, after the three countries in the Axis of Evil,

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who should be number four, and France won hands down.

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Even the Brits wouldn't say that as a joke, probably.

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But also, French fries have been taken off restaurant menus.

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So at the popular level, there's a lot of hatred.

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And there's a lot of resentment, also, at the upper level.

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Do you actually think relations between the US and France

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will ever be the same again?

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This is not a problem between the United States and France,

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neither between the UK and France.

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It is the problem of how are we going to deal with the Iraqi crisis.

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What kind of world do we want to live in?

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This is the key.

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And we think that when you have a friend...

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..sometimes this friend disagrees.

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And it is very important for a friend to be able to tell the truth.

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What do you think? How do you feel?

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We feel that today going to war is premature,

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and we say it and we assume it.

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It is important to have such kind of friends

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who are able to tell you exactly.

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Do you think in retrospect it was a mistake

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for France to say what the President did

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to the countries of Eastern Europe,

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that their entry into the EU might be blocked by France...

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- No. - ..if they dared childishly....

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- He didn't say that. - ..to disagree with him?

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He didn't say that. He said that he was hurt,

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as many people in Europe, he was hurt by this initiative.

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You see, when you are in a family...

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But he did say they've not been very well behaved...

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- Yeah, but that's different. - ..they've missed

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a great opportunity to shut up...

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He didn't say he was going to block.

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..if they want to reduce their chances of entering Europe,

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they could not have found a better way.

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Yes, but he didn't say he will block, which is very different.

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No, I think when you are in a family you need to say what you think.

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That is part of the family. If you don't speak clearly...

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..then it's when you get misunderstandings.

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We all do agree to have a good relationship with the US.

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We are all friends of the US. This should not divide Europe.

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And I don't think we should consider that this Iraqi crisis

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is a crisis between Europe and the United States.

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I think the one thing it's demonstrated

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is that the idea, at least for a few years,

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the idea of a common European foreign policy is dead as a dodo, isn't it?

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- No, I don't think so. - No?

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Of course agreeing on war or peace is very important,

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but I must say that I'm glad

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when I see that the people of Europe at least are united.

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And you see, 90% of the world community do agree to the fact

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that we should give more time to the inspectors.

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90%! And there is in every of our countries

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more than 80% of the people who agree along the same lines.

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We think force should be used as a last resort.

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Some countries may think that with force in Iraq

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you are going to get the end of terrorism,

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the end of proliferation in the world

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and the end of the general crisis

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and like by magic you're going to make peace in the Middle East.

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We don't agree.

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But in that situation, surely, the progress that's been made

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in terms of disarmament,

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which you rate much greater than, obviously, President Bush does

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or anyone in the UK,

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but that progress would only have happened with that man Saddam

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with the threat of force

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and with the immense financial and other sacrifice

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of the United States sending 200,000 troops there.

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Without that, all of this wouldn't have happened.

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Of course the build-up, the military build-up,

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has been putting a lot of pressure on Iraq.

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But we have also not to forget

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that there is a timetable set by Resolution 1441, very clear.

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There is no deadline.

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But there IS a timetable,

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which is the reports that every two or three weeks

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the inspectors are making for the Security Council.

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When we met at the ministerial level the 14th of February

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in the Security Council,

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the fact that this report was coming was a very strong pressure on Iraq

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as well as the next report, which is going to come

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maybe on the 7th of March.

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This pressure obligates Iraq as well as the different countries

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to get results, to get more results.

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But they only even listened to Blix's reports

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because of the threat that's behind them,

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which is not a Blix threat but it is a US, UK threat.

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Force can give results if force is legitimate,

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if force goes along with the right, with principle, with law.

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It is not the case today.

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So we must give inspectors more time.

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And looking ahead now...

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in conclusion, would you say...

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..that it is likely

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that we will see war in the next few months in Iraq or not?

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Or are you optimistic? Are you pessimistic?

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It's very difficult to be optimistic in such a situation.

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We all see the determination of the United States.

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But I know also something from history,

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that history is never written in advance.

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We must...

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try to find a way, we must work to find a way,

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because our conviction is the use of force

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in such a context, in such a situation

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may have very deep, very important consequences.

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And that's why I believe it's important

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to keep talking with one another,

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try to understand, try to find really what are the best solutions.

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Are we going to go to war

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because we don't want to wait a couple of weeks or months more?

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Is it really worth it to go to war today?

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I think these are questions still pending,

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and we are waiting for answers.

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Mr Foreign Secretary, thank you so much.

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Thank you, Sir David.

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