Warning to France

Article excerpt

Byline: James Morrison, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Warning to France

France risks damaging relations with the United States over its continued efforts to block U.S. efforts to force Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to disarm, the U.S. ambassador to France said yesterday.

Ambassador Howard Leach, in a front-page article in the newspaper Le Monde, warned, "In the Iraqi matter, we have come to an important point of decision, and France's answer may have repercussions for years to come."

Earlier this week, he told France's LCI television that a French veto of the latest U.N. Security Council resolution - sponsored by the United States, Britain and Spain - would be "an unfriendly act."

One European diplomat in Washington said Mr. Leach's words were "quite strong" in diplomatic language but added, "A French veto would be unfriendly."

In his Le Monde article, Mr. Leach noted Saddam's continuing defiance the United Nations and his lack of cooperation with U.N. arms inspections.

"As a means of disarmament, inspections alone cannot succeed," he said, referring to France's insistence that inspections be given more time. "How much longer would be long enough for the inspections to confirm the emptiness of Iraqi claims of cooperation?"

Mr. Leach argued that U.N. Resolution 1441 is unequivocal in its threat of "serious consequences," if Saddam failed to disclose his weapons of mass destruction.

"The words 'immediate' and 'immediately' appear three times in 1441 as a clear message of the Security Council's sense of timing. And, given the importance of the U.N. Security Council to French interests, isn't it important that 1441 be enforced by a unified international community?" he wrote.

The French defense

In Washington, French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte is defending France's military contribution to the Western alliance, pointing to troop deployments to Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan.

He also noted France's intervention in the civil war in Ivory Coast, an example of France's willingness to act unilaterally in its former Africa colonies.

"France is not shy about the use of force and has resorted to military means several times in the past decade," he said. "This it has done alongside the United States, both within the framework of NATO and outside of it. …