Official Explains French Position on Iraq

Following is a transcript of George Stephanopoulos' interview with French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin that aired on This Week today.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. de Villepin thank you for having us to the ministry.

DE VILLEPIN: Good morning, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to begin by getting your response to what appears to be a specific hardening of the White House line over the weekend. There are now saying that it's not enough to disarm Saddam Hussein, he must also be deposed and that's the only way to avoid war.

DE VILLEPIN: We stick to the objectives of the international community, and this directive has been set up by [United Nations] Resolution 1441. And this resolution says very clearly the objective is disarmament of Iraq.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Not regime change?

DE VILLEPIN: Not regime change. If we going to pursue regime change all over the world there's so many countries that would be included. So many dictators who we would like to have out of the country. Where would we begin, where would we stop?

STEPHANOPOULOS: But is this a sign to you that the United States is determined to go to war no matter what the U.N. says, no matter what France says?

DE VILLEPIN: I think that's where we have to raise questions. We are asking, 'Is the use of force the last resort? Do we have an alternative for war?' We say, 'Yes,' today. And why do we say yes? Because we have the inspectors on the ground telling us we are making progress.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The progress isn't the standard set in your Resolution 1441. It says unconditional complete immediate compliance. It didn't say progress.

DE VILLEPIN: You see, when we wrote in the Security Council this resolution, we worked very hard. I worked very hard with Colin Powell on this resolution. There's something at the beginning we knew very clearly. We were going to inspect. We were going to work in a country who was headed by a dictator. We knew at the time that Saddam Hussein was leading this country. You have to take that into account. You don't try to disarm Iraq the same way you disarm South Africa.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But the standard was very clear. You say you spent many weeks negotiating every single word and the standard was very clear and it wasn't progress. It was immediate compliance. And there's no question now—

DE VILLEPIN: Well—

STEPHANOPOULOS: Have you seen that? There was a false declaration by Iraq. Even Hans Blix says that the cooperation is very limited. That's not complete.

DE VILLEPIN: Well, the last report he made yesterday — and he's going to have another report made on the Friday — was saying that in this declaration, there were elements that could help us in order to know better the programs of Iraq. And what do we see with the work of the inspectors in the last three months? We see that we know better today the capacity of the different programs. If you take, for example, the nuclear program, today we are in a situation with Mr. ElBaradei, who is heading the International Agency for Atomic Energy, who is saying that in a couple of months he might be able to certify, to guarantee that there is no nuclear program in Iraq. That's something very important. On missiles, we know exactly today the capacity of Iraq, approximately 60 missiles. And they began to destroy these missiles today, this very day. They began destroying four missiles.

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