Official Explains French Position on Iraq

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you know what President Bush says. He says that's just the tip of the iceberg and that Iraq is providing no evidence at all of where their anthrax is, where their V.X. nerve gas is, where their other chemical weapons are, no evidence at all. And isn't that failure a material breach of 1441?

DE VILLEPIN: You see, the key of the resolution is one varied element. It is the reports that the inspectors are making every two or three weeks to the Council. And what do they say? They say their reports, that they know better on the nuclear field. They know better on the chemical field. We have a list in the chemical field of 83 experts, Iraqi experts that in '91 assisted or participated to the destruction of many chemical programs. We need now to interrogate these people.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But the inspectors were not meant to be detectives. They were simply meant to verify complete disarmament for Saddam Hussein. Do you believe he's disarming now fully?

DE VILLEPIN: He is, we are in the process of being able to disarm The key question is, 'Today, do we believe that force is the good solution for Iraq? Do we believe?'— Yes, we have to look at our own interests in that, the interests of the United States, the interests of the world community. Is force today in Iraq going to give us the most secure world? That's why we propose, with the Russians and the Germans, a second memorandum. We propose first to reinforce the inspectors. That's not enough. We propose afterwards to really, to buy, to build a system that we allow the inspectors to be more efficient in giving benchmark—

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you know what your counterpart, the foreign minister of Britain, Jack Straw, says about that. He says essentially Saddam is a big boy. He knows what he's asked to do. We don't have to spell it out every single word.

DE VILLEPIN: Yes, but then what would you say? Whatever he does, you will say he's a dictator. How can you trust a dictator? And we share that view. That's why we need to make sure by ourselves, through the inspections, that things are going to work You see, after the 11th of September, we went in a different world. In this very different world we've been united. The first head of state who went to New York was President Chirac, to show the solidarity of France and of the French people to the United States. And the country that cooperated the most on terrorism is France, because we had a strong experience on terrorism. We had terrorism in our ground in the '80s and the '90s. and we understand how the American has been suffering since the 11th of September. But we know also that this very unity the international community has known and has made our capacity more efficient for terrorism. If you don't take that into account, then are we going to use force everywhere, every month?

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you know that the United States would throw that argument right back on you. They'd say to show that unity, the world must do what it said it would do in 1441.

DE VILLEPIN: Absolutely.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And so 1441 was very clear. It said if Saddam Hussein doesn't cooperate that he must face serious consequences.

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