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The French Foreign Secretary, Dominique de Villepin,
won unprecedented applause at the United Nations last month
for an impassioned speech against war on Iraq or immediate war on Iraq.
France is convinced
it speaks for the majority of the international community,
certainly for the individuals in it if not all the governments.
But how far will it go in defiance of the United States?
'I met Mr de Villepin yesterday
'and, in the magnificent setting of the French Foreign Ministry -
'look at that setting there,
'eat your heart out, Jack Straw -
'we talked about whether France will try to veto the use of force
'and whether that would do lasting damage
'to its relationship with America.'
But first, I asked him why he sees the situation so differently
from our own Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw,
who described Saddam's last-ditch decision to dismantle missiles
as "a cynical trick".
We believe that the key factor, the referee...
..are the inspectors.
The rule of the game is Resolution 1441,
and the referee are the inspectors, Mr Blix and Mr El Baradei.
They are the eye and the hand of the international community in Iraq.
They know what's going on on the ground.
You cannot say, "I want Saddam Hussein to disarm,"
and at the same time, when he's disarming, say,
"They're not doing what they should".
Maybe they're not doing enough.
That's exactly the job of the inspectors,
and that's exactly what we are trying to get with them,
to get more, to get the complete fulfilling of the programmes
during the next days and months.
What the US and the UK seem to be saying, though, in addition,
is they're saying the things that are really important
are the possible 8,500 litres of anthrax
or 360 tonnes of chemical-warfare agents,
that these are the important ones.
Sir David, one year ago, almost all the experts were saying,
"What's important is the nuclear programmes
"and the ballistic programme".
We know already, and Mr El Baradei said
that in a couple of months he might be able to certify,
that there is no nuclear programmes in Iraq.
In the ballistic, we've seen the progress made through the missiles.
Now we come to the biological and chemical programmes.
We make progress also on these fields.
We have a chance through the inspections
..to disarm Iraq, which is very important for us.
Why? Because there is not only Iraq.
We should not forget Iraq is one of the many countries
that do possess weapons of mass destruction.
And it is absolutely a very important challenge
for the international community
to be able to solve the Iraqi crisis peacefully,
because what are we going to do next?
Are we going also to make war with North Korea?
Are we going to go to war to the other Middle East countries
that do possess weapons of mass destruction?
I think the use of force must be only, as President Chirac says,
a last resort.
But yesterday I noticed the Prime Minister was talking about
the fact that although the people
who appeased Germany, Hitler, in 1938 and so on were good people,
that appeasement is always a mistake
and implying that this thing of letting him go on,
letting Saddam Hussein have the benefit of the doubt
and go on for 120 days, is some form of appeasement.
Is there any parallel?
Are we in the same situation in Iraq?
Can you make really a comparison between the two?
I'm not saying that there is on one side
the countries that want to act -
the US, the UK, Spain -
and the other side the countries that don't want to do anything.
We are not a pacifist country.
Remember, we are the first contributor of troops to NATO.
We were in the past one of the leading countries
that were in Bosnia and in Kosovo.
We were first in Afghanistan.
We had 70 soldiers that died in Bosnia.
We are not pacifist.
We are ready to take full responsibility.
And we said if the use of force at one point is absolutely needed,
then of course we might take these decisions.
But the question is...
And sometimes at night I wake up...
..thinking, "Have we tried everything?"
You see, peace is a very important thing.
It's a very strong benefit for mankind.
And we should only accept the use of force when we have tried everything.
Have we tried everything? France says no.
And I think that before you send, before the US send some boys in Iraq,
we have to answer the question, is it necessary?
Is it worth it?
That's the two questions.
If it is needed as a last resort, force is necessary.
Since you feel so strongly, Foreign Secretary,
you've been asked in the last day or two
about the fact of in what circumstances or would you ever
consider a veto in terms of this second resolution,
because you feel so strongly,
as you've been saying, about war and so on?
And basically, your reply was once or twice, I read, that, basically,
France wants to keep all its options open.
So that means you haven't ruled it out.
When we wrote together, the Security Council, Resolution 1441,
what have we said?
We've said that we should work through the inspection
till when we find ourselves in a deadlock.
And it is to the inspectors to make a report and say,
"Well, we cannot work any more".
Are we in such a situation? No.
Do we need a second resolution? No.
Are we going to oppose a second resolution? Yes.
As the Russian and many other countries,
we are going to take full responsibility, of course,
because it's a very important matter.
It is the world of the international community which is at stake,
and we believe the UN should not be put in a position to just...
put a rubber stamp on a decision that has already been made.
You see, the calendar, the timetable of the international community
may be not...
the timetable of war.
But you don't make war on a timetable.
And do you think that the relationship
between France and the United States
can survive both at the highest level
and also at the people level
the tremendous bitterness that exists at the moment?
I spend a lot of time in the States.
I saw one thing where polls asked
who, after the three countries in the Axis of Evil,
who should be number four, and France won hands down.
Even the Brits wouldn't say that as a joke, probably.
But also, French fries have been taken off restaurant menus.
So at the popular level, there's a lot of hatred.
And there's a lot of resentment, also, at the upper level.
Do you actually think relations between the US and France
will ever be the same again?
This is not a problem between the United States and France,
neither between the UK and France.
It is the problem of how are we going to deal with the Iraqi crisis.
What kind of world do we want to live in?
This is the key.
And we think that when you have a friend...
..sometimes this friend disagrees.
And it is very important for a friend to be able to tell the truth.
What do you think? How do you feel?
We feel that today going to war is premature,
and we say it and we assume it.
It is important to have such kind of friends
who are able to tell you exactly.
Do you think in retrospect it was a mistake
for France to say what the President did
to the countries of Eastern Europe,
that their entry into the EU might be blocked by France...
- No. - ..if they dared childishly....
- He didn't say that. - ..to disagree with him?
He didn't say that. He said that he was hurt,
as many people in Europe, he was hurt by this initiative.
You see, when you are in a family...
But he did say they've not been very well behaved...
- Yeah, but that's different. - ..they've missed
a great opportunity to shut up...
He didn't say he was going to block.
..if they want to reduce their chances of entering Europe,
they could not have found a better way.
Yes, but he didn't say he will block, which is very different.
No, I think when you are in a family you need to say what you think.
That is part of the family. If you don't speak clearly...
..then it's when you get misunderstandings.
We all do agree to have a good relationship with the US.
We are all friends of the US. This should not divide Europe.
And I don't think we should consider that this Iraqi crisis
is a crisis between Europe and the United States.
I think the one thing it's demonstrated
is that the idea, at least for a few years,
the idea of a common European foreign policy is dead as a dodo, isn't it?
- No, I don't think so. - No?
Of course agreeing on war or peace is very important,
but I must say that I'm glad
when I see that the people of Europe at least are united.
And you see, 90% of the world community do agree to the fact
that we should give more time to the inspectors.
90%! And there is in every of our countries
more than 80% of the people who agree along the same lines.
We think force should be used as a last resort.
Some countries may think that with force in Iraq
you are going to get the end of terrorism,
the end of proliferation in the world
and the end of the general crisis
and like by magic you're going to make peace in the Middle East.
We don't agree.
But in that situation, surely, the progress that's been made
in terms of disarmament,
which you rate much greater than, obviously, President Bush does
or anyone in the UK,
but that progress would only have happened with that man Saddam
with the threat of force
and with the immense financial and other sacrifice
of the United States sending 200,000 troops there.
Without that, all of this wouldn't have happened.
Of course the build-up, the military build-up,
has been putting a lot of pressure on Iraq.
But we have also not to forget
that there is a timetable set by Resolution 1441, very clear.
There is no deadline.
But there IS a timetable,
which is the reports that every two or three weeks
the inspectors are making for the Security Council.
When we met at the ministerial level the 14th of February
in the Security Council,
the fact that this report was coming was a very strong pressure on Iraq
as well as the next report, which is going to come
maybe on the 7th of March.
This pressure obligates Iraq as well as the different countries
to get results, to get more results.
But they only even listened to Blix's reports
because of the threat that's behind them,
which is not a Blix threat but it is a US, UK threat.
Force can give results if force is legitimate,
if force goes along with the right, with principle, with law.
It is not the case today.
So we must give inspectors more time.
And looking ahead now...
in conclusion, would you say...
..that it is likely
that we will see war in the next few months in Iraq or not?
Or are you optimistic? Are you pessimistic?
It's very difficult to be optimistic in such a situation.
We all see the determination of the United States.
But I know also something from history,
that history is never written in advance.
try to find a way, we must work to find a way,
because our conviction is the use of force
in such a context, in such a situation
may have very deep, very important consequences.
And that's why I believe it's important
to keep talking with one another,
try to understand, try to find really what are the best solutions.
Are we going to go to war
because we don't want to wait a couple of weeks or months more?
Is it really worth it to go to war today?
I think these are questions still pending,
and we are waiting for answers.
Mr Foreign Secretary, thank you so much.
Thank you, Sir David.