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To What Extent Do the Nature and Scope of the Threat Justify the Recourse to Force?

To What Extent Do the Nature and Scope of the Threat Justify the Recourse to Force?

Address by His Excellency Dominique de Villepin, UN Security Council, New York, February 5, 2003. Source: French Delegation in New-York and Quai d’Orsay (TV Photo).

Mr. President,

Mr. Secretary-General,



I wish to reiterate here the condolences of France to the American people for the terrible Columbia space shuttle tragedy.

I also wish to congratulate the German Presidency for organizing this meeting, and to thank Secretary of State Colin Powell for his initiative in convening this meeting. I listened very carefully to the elements he gave us. They contain information, indications, questions that deserve to be explored. It will be up to the inspectors to assess the facts in accordance with resolution 1441. Already his report brings a new justification to the path chosen by the United Nations; it must strengthen our common determination.

In unanimously adopting resolution 1441, we chose to act through inspections.

· This policy rests on three fundamental points:

A clear objective on which we cannot compromise: the disarmament of Iraq;

A method: a rigorous system of inspections which demands Iraq's active cooperation and affirms the central role of the Security Council at each stage;

A requirement: our unity. This gave the message we unanimously addressed to Baghdad its full force. I hope that our meeting today will strengthen this unity.

· Significant results have already been seen:

UNMOVIC and the AIEA are at work: more than a hundred inspectors are deployed on the ground and they are making 300 visits a month on average; the number of sites inspected has increased; complete access to the presidential sites in particular is a major gain;

In the nuclear domain, the first two months allowed the IAEA to make good progress in its knowledge of Iraq's capacity as Dr. ElBaradei has stated. This is a key element;

In the areas covered by UNMOVIC, the inspections have provided us with useful information. Mr. Blix has confirmed, for example, that no trace of biological or chemical agents has so far been detected by the inspectors: not through analyses of samples taken from inspected sites nor on the 12 empty warheads discovered at Ukhaider on January 16;

· Nonetheless, there are still gray areas in Iraq's cooperation:

The inspectors have reported real difficulties. In his January 27 report, Mr. Blix gave several examples of unresolved questions in the ballistic, chemical and biological domains. These uncertainties are not acceptable. France will continue to pass on all the information it has so they can be better defined;

Right now, our attention has to be focused as a priority on the biological and chemical domains. It is there that our presumptions about Iraq are the most significant: regarding the chemical domain, we have evidence of its capacity to produce VX and yperite; in the biological domain, the evidence suggests the possible possession of significant stocks of anthrax and botulism toxin, and possibly a production capability;

Today the absence of long-range delivery systems reduces the potential threat of these weapons. But we have disturbing signs of Iraq's continued determination to acquire ballistic missiles beyond the authorized 150-km range:

In the nuclear domain, we must clarify in particular any attempt by Iraq to acquire aluminum tubes;

So it is a demanding démarche, anchored in resolution 1441, that we must take together. If this path were to fail and take us into a dead-end, then we rule out no option, including in the final analysis the recourse to force as we have said all along.

But in such a hypothesis, several answers will have to be clearly provided to all governments and all peoples of the world to limit the risks and uncertainties:

To what extent do the nature and scope of the threat justify the recourse to force?

How do we make sure that the considerable risks of such intervention are actually kept under control ? This obviously requires a collective démarche of responsibility on the part of the world community.

In any case, it must be clear that in the context of such an option, the United Nations will have to be at the center of the action to guarantee Iraq's unity, ensure the region's stability, protect civilians and preserve the unity of the world community.

For now the inspections regime, favored by resolution 1441, must be strengthened since it has not been explored to the end. Use of force can only be a final recourse. Why go to war if there still exists an unused space in resolution 1441?

Consistent with the logic of this resolution, we must therefore move on to a new stage and further strengthen the inspections. With the choice between military intervention and an inspections regime that is inadequate for lack of cooperation on Iraq's part, we must choose to strengthen decisively the means of inspection. This is what France advocates today.

To do this, we must define with Mr. Blix and Dr. El Baradei the requisite tools for increasing their operational capabilities:

Let us double or triple the number of inspectors and open up more regional offices. Let us go further: Why not establish a specialized body to keep under surveillance the sites and areas already inspected?

Let us substantially increase the capabilities for monitoring and collecting information on Iraqi territory. France is ready to provide full support: it is ready to deploy Mirage IV observer aircraft;

Let us collectively establish a coordination and information-processing center that would supply Mr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei, in real time and in a coordinated way, with all the intelligence resources they might need;

Let us list the unresolved disarmament questions and rank them by importance;

With the consent of the leaders of the inspection teams, let us define a demanding and realistic time-frame for moving forward in the assessment and elimination of problems. There must be regular follow-up to the progress made in Iraq's disarmament.

This enhanced regime of inspections and monitoring could be usefully complemented by having a permanent UN coordinator for disarmament in Iraq, stationed in Iraq and working under the authority of Mr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei.

· But Iraq must cooperate actively. The country must comply immediately with the demands of Mr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei, in particular by:

Permitting meetings with Iraqi scientists without witnesses;

Agreeing to the use of U2 observer flights;

Adopting legislation to prohibit the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction;

Handing over to the inspectors immediately all relevant documents on unresolved disarmament questions, in particular in the biological and chemical domains; those handed over on January 20 do not constitute a step in the right direction. The 3000 pages of documents discovered at the home of a researcher show that Baghdad must do more. Absent documents, Iraq must be able to present credible testimony.

The Iraqi authorities must also provide the inspectors with answers to the new elements presented by Colin Powell.

Between now and the inspectors' next report, on February 14, Iraq will have to provide new elements. The upcoming visit to Baghdad by the leaders of the inspectors will have to be the occasion for clear results to this end.

Mr. President, this is the demanding démarche that we must take together for a new stage. Its success presupposes, today as yesterday, that the international community remains united and mobilized.

It is our moral and political duty first to devote all our energy to Iraq's disarmament, in peace and in compliance with the rule of law and justice. France is convinced that we can succeed on this demanding path so long as we maintain our unity and cohesion.

This is the choice of collective responsibility.

Thank you.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).