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'I have extremely strong reservations about this initiative', French President Jacques Chirac on proposals by Presidents Bush and Blair for greater NATO involvement in Iraq, June 9


Q. - (...) This morning, President Bush and Prime Minister Blair spoke about a possible broader role for NATO in Iraq. It's a subject they want to work on before the summit which is going to take place in Turkey. Do you, France, see the possibility of NATO troops going to Iraq, what do you think of this initiative?

THE PRESIDENT - I am of course open to all discussions. I won't hide from you the fact that I don't think it's NATO's job to intervene in Iraq and, what's more, I don't feel it would be either timely or necessarily well understood. So you can see I have extremely strong reservations about this initiative. It goes without saying that in any case it could be envisaged only if the Iraqi government expressly requested it.

Q. - How would you describe relations between France and the United States today?

THE PRESIDENT - I think they're very good. Now I know they aren't free of argument, but one of the characteristics of democracy is to encourage argument (...). But if you're talking about the fundamentals, I think the relations between the United States and France, today, are good, as is right between long-standing friends.

Q. - Yesterday France joined in the unanimous vote for a resolution at the United Nations on the transfer of sovereignty in Iraq. Have you any comments on this, was it an enthusiastic vote?

THE PRESIDENT - Our vote was - "enthusiastic", when you're talking about a way out of a crisis like the one we're seeing in Iraq, isn't, strictly speaking, the appropriate word - but we were satisfied. And I'd like first to express - I did so this morning to President Bush - how very grateful we are for the way this negotiation took place and for the great openness of mind displayed by the American diplomats regarding the constant effort, over the past few days, to improve the resolution.

It wasn't, of course, a matter of knowing who was wrong or who was right. It's one of efficacy. I firmly believe that today the only way out of the crisis we are currently seeing in Iraq is to give the Iraqi people the feeling that the government which is going to take on the job of running the country is a totally sovereign, independent government. That was absolutely essential.

And that required everyone, including our American friends, to shift their positions. Not surprisingly, on the issues of security and relations between that government and the multinational force, some concessions weren't easy to achieve. And when it came to the political, legal, judicial and diplomatic problems, things were difficult. I can say that the Americans really understood that they had to play the game and they did. This allowed those of their partners most concerned to ensure that sovereignty was really indisputable and could be felt as such by the Iraqi people - i.e. the Germans, Russians, Spaniards, French and some others - to express their satisfaction at the outcome of this exercise. I am pleased about this.

Q. - At the outset, France had been fairly hesitant about the US initiative on the "Greater Middle East", today she seems far more favourable towards it. Can you explain to us why France now thinks it's a positive development and what steps the various parties took to reach a compromise?

THE PRESIDENT - France has never disputed the necessity of dialogue and help for a number of countries, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, on the path towards both economic and political modernization. Indeed, she had initiated the movement through the Barcelona Process. It would have been really inconsistent for her to dispute its usefulness.

On the other hand, France was very mindful of the fact that you can't impose reforms, that you need to convince, engage in dialogue and cooperate, but do all this with due regard for the diversity of the peoples, their histories, their cultures and the problems confronting them. So we think that what was essential was the opening of a genuine friendly and constructive dialogue, capable of helping peoples who wished to do so to move forward in a number of areas. I repeat, it's in a way the Barcelona spirit. It's what we ourselves are doing with a number of countries, starting with Syria, for example, with our support for governance and public services reform.

I think the approach we agreed on is a good one. We're now going to discuss with the countries concerned and I hope that this cooperation can develop positively.

Q. - I'd like to know how to interpret the fact that you aren't going to [former] President Reagan's funeral on Friday?

THE PRESIDENT - Regrettably, there's a totally simple reason for it. I knew President Reagan and his wife. I met him and worked with him and would have been glad to have gone to tell his wife personally the feelings I immediately expressed to her in writing. But I have obligations which are beyond my control, so I've asked our Foreign Minister, M. Michel Barnier, to stand in for me and former President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing if he could also represent France, which, I believe, he's going to do and which I'd like.

Q. - What links do you make between the dialogue on the "Greater Middle East", the positions taken by the Israeli cabinet and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Is it all just for show or is there a coherent policy for linking the three? What's your position, personally, on all these issues and can they be linked to the Roadmap?

THE PRESIDENT - Obviously, a prerequisite for any global approach to what's known today as the "Greater Middle East and North Africa" issue is the prior existence of real progress - something we can't see today - in restoring peace between the Palestinians and Israelis. (...) Hence our confirmation of our wholehearted support for the Roadmap. It is what it is, but it has the merit of existing. And I think we should today concentrate all our efforts on enabling its concrete implementation, including by envisaging, if necessary, an international presence on the ground to ensure that the commitments are honoured on both sides.


Q. - During your meeting with Mr Koizumi, you expressed your support for his North Korea policy. But how can you help us improve the situation and also what's your reaction to certain decisions the Americans have taken on Korea? (...)

THE PRESIDENT - Firstly, I expressed to the Japanese Prime Minister France's total support for his initiatives and his policy vis-à-vis North Korea. I consider, in particular, that the two visits have been very constructive and I naturally took advantage of our meeting to tell him of our satisfaction at seeing a number of the abducted children go home. I believe that Japan is conducting a very active and very positive policy in the framework of the Group of Six [six-party talks between the US, Japan, China, Russia and North and South Korea]. This is why - it's the second thing I said to the Prime Minister - we are supporting this Japanese initiative, particularly at the UN Security Council. On the problem of the reduction in US troops, it's not for me to give an opinion. That's a problem which has to be dealt with by the parties concerned.

Q. - Have you had the opportunity in Sea Island of talking about the idea, which means a lot to you I believe, of a tax to help finance the poor countries?

THE PRESIDENT - It's an idea which means more than a lot to me, quite simply because it is, in my view, indispensable and inevitable. It is absolutely necessary. So we now have to see how it can be done. We haven't talked about it yet. It's on this afternoon's agenda. I'll be very keen, as you can imagine, to defend in the strongest possible terms the idea of additional funds on top of official development assistance which is insufficient today and doesn't look as if there's any possibility of it being enough, particularly to achieve the Millennium Goals, i.e. a marked reduction in poverty worldwide by 2015. It's with this in mind that I'm going to support the British proposal of an international finance initiative and vigorously commend the proposals I'm going to formalize very soon at the United Nations on an international tax system allowing us to get enough money - on top of the official development assistance - to shoulder our responsibilities of solidarity in the world./.

Source: French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, http://www.diplomatie.fr.

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