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France on NATO, Afghanistan and Iraq, February 2 & 6
'[T]here is nothing else on the table', French
Minister of Foreign Affairs Dominique de Villepin, February 6
'Visit to New York, Press Briefing given by M. Dominique de
Villepin, Minister of Foreign Affairs', February 6, 2004.
Q. - Speaking of working together, I believe the Secretary said
he would talk to you at lunch about the use of NATO in Iraq. Did it
come up, and what was the upshot of it all?
THE MINISTER - Of course we discussed NATO. And the priority for
us today is the role of NATO in Afghanistan. We all agree on that.
Of course, regarding Iraq: we know that NATO is providing technical
assistance to some of the members of the coalition, for the time
being, but there is nothing else on the table, and we believe that
whatever may be considered in Iraq besides what exists needs to be
done at the request of a full Iraqi sovereign government. And it
must also be done with the agreement of the Security Council.
Source: French Ministry for Foreign Affairs, http://www.diplomatie.fr.
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[T]he position of the Iraqi interim
government...[and] the role of the UN..will be essential', French
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, February 6
'Statement by the French Foreign Ministry Spokesperson',
Paris, February 6, 2004.
Q- The U.S. secretary of defense demanded a NATO role in Iraq.
What is France's position on that? Should a multinational or NATO
force have UN approval?
With regard to sending French troops to Iraq, you heard what
Dominique de Villepin said yesterday on Europe 1, from Mexico. He
very clearly said that this question isn't even being raised right
now. As for other formats, there's no specific deadline for
discussing this topic or for making decisions about it. Obviously,
the position of the Iraqi interim government, once it is
constituted, will be fundamental, just as the role of the UN and
its analyses and suggestions will be essential.
Q - Does France have any objections on principle to a NATO role
There are questions of principle; there are also practical and
political considerations. Obviously, the primary question is: Will
a request come from the Iraqi authorities? And beyond the
restoration of Iraqi sovereignty, a crucial step, what will be the
configuration of the international presence in Iraq? There are
several components to this: the attitude of the provisional
government in Baghdad; the role that the UN will assume in the
meantime. In short, we have to look at all this as a whole, not
just as a simple question of principle. The conclusions that the
international community eventually makes will be based on a global
Q - If I remember correctly, France, along with Belgium and
Germany, opposed a NATO action in Turkey before the war in
Iraq.That was a position of principle.
France wasn't opposed to NATO providing logistical aid to the
Poles in the framework of their participation in coalition forces.
So you see that this isn't so much a question of theology as one of
context. But once again, the question isn't being raised in those
terms at the moment.
Source: French Ministry for Foreign Affairs, http://www.diplomatie.fr.
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'[W]e insist on our principles and we do not
intend to budge', French Defence Minister Michèle
Alliot-Marie, February 2
'We will remain true to ourselves', French Defence Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie
discusses relations with America, involvement in the reconstruction
of Iraq and the European Security and Defense Union with Der
Spiegel, February 2, 2004.
Der Spiegel :
Madam Minister, for the first time in more than a year, a French
minister of your level was permitted to make an official visit to
Washington. Is the punishment phase coming to an end?
Michèle Alliot-Marie :
It may surprise you, but I was received with great warmth and
politeness, both in the White House and the Pentagon, as well as in
the Congress and the Senate. The US government has clearly
demonstrated its will to begin on a new page and to end the
tensions between our two countries.
Are these gestures of reconciliation mainly due to the
Americans' increasing difficulties and helplessness in
The US government has at least acknowledged that our warnings
were not without justification, that we did not maliciously throw
diplomatic and legal hurdles in their path, but that we analyzed
the situation to the best of our knowledge and belief, as well as
on the basis of our knowledge of the region.
But hasn't quite a bit of suppressed resentment
American politicians are pragmatists. They adjust their position
to conform to changes in the situation. It doesn't make sense to
cry over spilt milk. The decision to go to war was made
unilaterally, but US failure in Iraq cannot be in anyone's
interest. That would be a defeat for all of us, for the entire
So what does Washington concretely expect from France, and
what do you have to offer?
We are prepared to assist in the reconstruction of Iraq.
However, we insist on our principles and we do not intend to budge
in this respect. Certain conditions must be fulfilled first.
The Americans have known exactly what they are for some time:
the end of the occupying regime, return of sovereignty to a
legitimate Iraqi government, active UN involvement. My counterparts
in Washington have assured me that these conditions no longer
present a problem.
US civilian administrator Paul Bremer has already turned to
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in an effort to convince the United
Nations to re-involve itself in the pacification of Iraq. But is
this truly anything more than just a tactical move?
Kofi Annan, with whom I also met in New York, essentially agrees
with the French position. He believes that a UN return to Iraq
following a complete transfer of power in early June is a matter of
course. Until then, things will remain more complicated. The UN
mission will have more of an exploratory, investigative and
consulting character, but will not involve direct intervention.
And how does France intend to contribute to the stabilization
Together with our German friends, we would like to be active in
areas in which we feel especially competent: in the training of
military personnel, police officers and constables. I know that at
least one other country - Japan - would like to be involved in this
And when do you expect to begin - before July 1?
Under no circumstances. The decisive issue for us is that a
legitimate Iraqi government must request our assistance and that it
must be provided under the auspices of the UN. We will not
participate in an occupying regime, even if the end of this regime
has been announced. Believe me, we will remain true to
And what if this Iraqi government were to ask France to
deploy troops under the banner of an international peacekeeping
We have already decided against that.
A final decision?
The political conditions for deploying French troops to Iraq are
not in place today. That is why such deployment is out of the
You remain in agreement with the Germans in this
You may rest assured that our positions are identical in
principle, even though we have not yet planned any specific
measures for possible training assistance.
The example of Afghanistan shows how difficult political
reconstruction and the transfer of sovereignty can be. Are free and
general elections - as the Shiite majority in Iraq is demanding -
the only way?
We are open in this regard. There is no absolutely correct way.
The important thing is that the Iraqis must reach a certain
consensus. The legitimacy of an Iraqi administration consists in
its recognition by the people and by the international
That could be difficult. The attack on the UN headquarters in
Baghdad demonstrated that even the United Nations can be viewed as
part of a foreign occupying force.
Yes, the situation has deteriorated considerably. From the very
beginning, France has urged that Iraqi sovereignty be restored as
quickly as possible - immediately, really - following the end of
hostilities. Meanwhile, a lot of time and, unfortunately, a great
deal of credibility has been lost.
Power cannot be transferred to what is little more than a puppet
administration. Nothing is gained without inner legitimacy, and
without it the situation cannot improve. There are forces that
would like to unleash a global war between the Islamic world and
the West. We must be extremely careful not to stumble into this
Your warnings may be justified, but aren't France and
Germany, measured against superpower USA, essentially condemned to
taking a passive role as helpless observers and
You don't want to spend the entire interview questioning me
about Iraq, do you? We are not just warners and know-it-alls.
France and Germany, as well as Great Britain and other European
countries, are united behind the common cause of transforming the
European economic superpower into a political power that can
protect its citizens, its interests and its values in the world. To
do so, we need a common defense.
Doesn't that involve a great deal of wishful thinking, when
you consider how divided the Europeans really are? We have not even
been capable of ratifying a European draft constitution until
The development of a European defense has remained largely
unaffected by these differences. It is progressing more quickly
than the movement to establish a common currency did at its time.
The European rapid intervention force reached its objective last
year: It can mobilize 60,000 troops, 400 aircraft and 100 ships
within 60 days. In addition, we even plan to develop a high-speed
crisis and intervention force that would consist of 1500 troops and
could be deployed within 48 hours. That would a global first.
Are the Americans impressed by these figures?
This is what my counterpart, Donald Rumsfeld, told me in
Washington: I have been hearing this talk about a European defense
union for the past ten years, and for the past ten years I've seen
nothing but declines in European defense spending. I believe that I
can convince him that the opposite is true. A Europe with its own
defense is no longer a fervent wish, but is now a reality.
The United States will perceive this reality as competition
as soon as it leaves the framework of the UN.
Well, just as an aside: If the Americans are becoming
suspicious, it means that they are taking us seriously. But the
issue is not one of competition, but of supplementation, of
complementarity. The consolidation of European defense strengthens
the alliance, which is ultimately the most important pillar of our
At the end of this year, NATO will transfer its command over the
international forces in Bosnia to the EU. Then Europe will continue
this stabilization mandate in the Balkans, just as we have
continued a military operation in Macedonia, albeit a small one.
Our deployment in the Congo is another important example. Nowhere
do our actions jeopardize the role of NATO. There is plenty of work
Nonetheless, the strong suspicious remains, especially in the
United States, that France is mainly interested in independent
European defense because it is not part of the military leadership
structure of NATO.
France makes an important contribution to NATO's international
peacekeeping missions. We have made a commitment to provide
significant funds to support NATO's rapid deployment force of a
little more than 20,000 troops - 25 percent during the first alarm
phase. I reminded the Americans that in 1995, President Chirac was
even willing to reintegrate France militarily into NATO structures.
At that time, it was the United States that refused to provide the
necessary gesture of approval.
What should that have been?
We expected that in return Washington would transfer the
Mediterranean command to us or another European state. Ok, so the
opportunity has passed, but NATO is changing, and we are full
participants in the expansion of this new NATO.
Then why did the establishment of an independent European
headquarters generate so much resistance and polemics in
This small planning and command headquarters is simply necessary
when Europe takes action in areas where the NATO alliance will not
intervene. In doing so, we are not competing with the NATO
headquarters - Shape - in Mons, Belgium. 3,000 officers work at
Shape. About 50 work at our headquarters. I believe that even
Donald Rumsfeld is more relaxed about this following my visit.
Misinformation has also been a factor here.
But you cannot deny that an insurmountable contradiction
exists between the French vision of a multipolar world based on
international law and the American tendency toward unilateralism
and preventive action?
This difference does exist. Perhaps the Americans understand
that there is a Chinese pole, a Russian pole, and possibly even a
Latin American pole that includes Brazil. But they also view the
United States and Europe as a single pole. When we emphasize our
independence, they sometimes perceive this as aggression. We must
work on eliminating this misunderstanding, partly by our setting a
good example in such areas as fighting terrorism in
Will the ceremony to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the
landing at Normandy in early June, which will be attended by the
German chancellor for the first time, renew the connection between
old Europe and superpower USA?
This ceremony is a strong symbol of friendship and solidarity. I
very much hope that President Bush will attend. It will be an
opportunity to celebrate a commonality of values, one that unites
our democracies and has overcome the rivalries of yesterday.
Madam Minister, we thank you for this interview.
The interview was conducted by Spiegel editor
Translated by Christopher Sultan
Source: France Ministry of Defence, http://www.defense.gouv.fr/.
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© 2003 The Acronym Institute.