Official Explains French Position on Iraq

DE VILLEPIN: Is the use of force going to make the Middle East a safer region? Don't you think it's going to create frustrations, humiliations, divisions? Don't you see the instability of this region? What about the unity of Iraq? We can discuss that. These questions we are waiting. When I meet with Colin Powell, President Chirac raised these questions when he is discussing with President Bush and we all are discussing these matters, because I think it's very, very important to have these kind of discussions before than after. Because after we are all going to pay the consequences. If we are going to—

STEPHANOPOULOS: What are those consequences?

DE VILLEPIN: A burst of terrorism, for example. Don't you think when you use force prematurely, when you use force in a region like the Middle East, which might be the most dangerous region of the world, with religious, with cultural consequences, with a lot of difficulty for the people of these regions and everywhere in the world. Today, 90 percent of the world community is not for the use of force, believe that we should stick to the Resolution 1441 and go ahead with the inspections while it is possible. And why do these people do believe so? Because they are pacifists? Take the example of France. France is not a pacifist country. We are the first contributor in troops to NATO. We were with the U.S. in Afghanistan. We took our share, an important share, in Bosnia and Kosovo. We had 70 soldiers, French soldiers, killed in Bosnia. That's not being pacifist. We are ready to take our full responsibilities…

STEPHANOPOULOS: Now from what you're saying it is very clear right now if the United States presses forward next week with a resolution, France will be against it.

DE VILLEPIN: Of course.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And you will veto it?

DE VILLEPIN: The time has not come. Time has not come. And it is not France who say that. It is the world community. We are not, George, facing a deadlock in the inspections. The report and Hans Blix has made a declaration yesterday and today saying that we've known very important progress. He said it on the missiles—

STEPHANOPOULOS: I know what he said. He said there was very little cooperation from Iraq.

DE VILLEPIN: No. He said that things were changing and he has been observing…

STEPHANOPOULOS: On process, not on substance.

DE VILLEPIN: On process and on substance. Taking the example of the missiles. You cannot say that a country should disarm and when a country agrees to disarm, to destroy all its missiles, that it's nothing. Then I'm asking you, what is the goal? Is the goal disarmament or is it something else?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me be just clear, then. You will use the veto if this comes to a vote next week?

DE VILLEPIN: We've been always very clear and if there is one thing you can count on, and I've said it the first day I met with Colin Powell, and it's clear also between President Bush and President Chirac, we take always our full responsibility. We don't believe, we don't—

STEPHANOPOULOS: But what does that mean? Does that mean you'll use the veto or you won't?

DE VILLEPIN: I'm not going to tell you if we are going to use the veto. We have the same position than the one that has expressed by the Russians. It is very clear.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, [Russian] Foreign Minister Ivanov since yesterday would use the veto.

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