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Iraq : The Use of Force Is Not Justified at this Time

Iraq : The Use of Force Is Not Justified at this Time

Speech by Dominique de Villepin, French Minister of Foreign Affairs, once Hans Blix, Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), and Mohamed ElBaradei, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), briefed an open meeting of the Security Council on Iraq. New York, February 14, 2003. Source: Quai d'Orsay, Paris, and United Nations, New York, February 14, 2003 (E-S Photo).

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General,

Ministers, Ambassadors,

I would like to thank Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei for the information they have just given us on the continuing inspections in Iraq. I would like to express to them again France's confidence and complete support in their mission.

You know the value that France has placed on the unity of the Security Council from the outset of the Iraq crisis. This unity rests on two fundamental elements at this time:

  • We are pursuing together the objective of effectively disarming Iraq.

We have an obligation to achieve results. Let us not cast doubt on our common commitment to this goal. We shoulder collectively this onerous responsibility which must leave no room for ulterior motives or assumptions. Let us be clear: Not one of us feels the least indulgence towards Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime.

In unanimously adopting resolution 1441, we collectively expressed our agreement with the two-stage approach proposed by France: the choice of disarmament through inspections and, should this strategy fail, consideration by the Security Council of all the options, including the recourse to force. It was clearly in the event the inspections failed and only in that scenario that a second resolution could be justified.

The question today is simple: Do we consider in good conscience that disarmament via inspections is now leading us to a dead-end? Or do we consider that the possibilities regarding inspections presented in resolution 1441 have still not been fully explored?

  • In response to this question, France has two convictions:

The first is that the option of inspections has not been taken to the end and that it can provide an effective response to the imperative of disarming Iraq;

The second is that the use of force would be so fraught with risks for people, for the region and for international stability that it should only be envisioned as a last resort.

So what have we just learned from the report by Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei? That the inspections are producing results. Of course, each of us wants more, and we will continue together to put pressure on Baghdad to obtain more. But the inspections are producing results.

In their previous reports to the Security Council on January 27, the executive chairman of UNMOVIC and the director-general of the IAEA had identified in detail areas in which progress was expected. Significant gains have been made on several of these points:

In the chemical and biological areas, the Iraqis have provided the inspectors with new documentation. They have also announced the establishment of commissions of inquiry led by former officials of weapons programs, in accordance with Mr. Blix's requests;

In the ballistic domain, the information provided by Iraq has also enabled the inspectors to make progress. We know exactly the real capabilities of the Al-Samoud missile. The unauthorized programs must now be dismantled, in accordance with Mr. Blix's conclusions;

In the nuclear domain, useful information was given to the IAEA on important points discussed by Mr. ElBaradei on January 27: the acquisition of magnets that could be used for enriching uranium and the list of contacts between Iraq and the country likely to have provided it with uranium.

There we are at the heart of the logic of resolution 1441 which must ensure the effectiveness of the inspections through precise identification of banned programs then their elimination.

We all realize that the success of the inspections presupposes that we obtain Iraq's full and complete cooperation. France has consistently demanded this.

  • Real progress is beginning to be apparent:

Iraq has agreed to aerial reconnaissance over its territory;

It has allowed Iraqi scientists to be questioned by the inspectors without witnesses;

A bill barring all activities linked to weapons of mass destruction programs is in the process of being adopted, in accordance with a long-standing request of the inspectors;

Iraq is to provide a detailed list of experts who witnessed the destruction of military programs in 1991.

France naturally expects these commitments to be durably verified. Beyond that, we must maintain strong pressure on Iraq so that it goes further in its cooperation.

Progress like this strengthens us in our conviction that inspections can be effective. But we must not shut our eyes to the amount of work that still remains; questions still have to be cleared up, verifications made, and installations and equipment probably still have to be destroyed.

  • To do this, we must give the inspections every chance of succeeding:

I submitted proposals to the Council on February 5;

Since then we have detailed them in a working document addressed to Mr. Blix and M. ElBaradei and distributed to Council members.

What is the spirit of these proposals?

They are practical, concrete proposals that can be implemented quickly and are designed to enhance the efficiency of inspection operations.

They fall within the framework of resolution 1441 and consequently do not require a new resolution.

They must support the efforts of Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei:

The latter are naturally the best placed to tell us which ones they wish to adopt for the maximum effectiveness of their work.

In their report they have already made useful and operational comments. France has already announced that it had additional resources available to Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei, beginning with its Mirage IV reconnaissance aircraft.

Now, yes, I do hear the critics:

There are those who think that the inspections, in their principle, cannot be the least effective. But I recall that this is the very foundation of resolution 1441 and that the inspections are producing results. One may judge them inadequate but they are there.

There are those who believe that continuing the inspection process is a sort of delaying tactic to prevent military intervention. That naturally raises the question of the time allowed Iraq. This brings us to the core of the debates. At stake is our credibility, and our sense of responsibility Let us have the courage to see things as they are.

  • There are two options:

The option of war might seem a priori to be the swiftest. But let us not forget that having won the war, one has to build peace. Let us not delude ourselves; this will be long and difficult because it will be necessary to preserve Iraq's unity and restore stability in a lasting way in a country and region harshly affected by the intrusion of force.

Faced with such perspectives, there is an alternative in the inspections which allow us to move forward day by day with the effective and peaceful disarmament of Iraq. In the end is that choice not the most sure and most rapid?

No one can assert today that the path of war will be shorter than that of the inspections. No one can claim either that it might lead to a safer, more just and more stable world. For war is always the sanction of failure. Would this be our sole recourse in the face of the many challenges at this time?

So let us allow the United Nations inspectors the time they need for their mission to succeed. But let us together be vigilant and ask Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei to report regularly to the Council. France, for its part, proposes another meeting on March 14 at ministerial level to assess the situation. We will then be able to judge the progress that has been made and what remains to be done.

Given this context, the use of force is not justified at this time. There is an alternative to war: disarming Iraq via inspections.

Furthermore, premature recourse to the military option would be fraught with risks:

The authority of our action is based today on the unity of the international community. Premature military intervention would bring this unity into question, and that would detract from its legitimacy and, in the long run, its effectiveness.

Such intervention could have incalculable consequences for the stability of this scarred and fragile region. It would compound the sense of injustice, increase tensions and risk paving the way to other conflicts.

We all share the same priority—that of fighting terrorism mercilessly.

This fight requires total determination. Since the tragedy of September 11 this has been one of the highest priorities facing our peoples. And France, which was struck hard by this terrible scourge several times, is wholly mobilized in this fight which concerns us all and which we must pursue together.

That was the sense of the Security Council meeting held on January 20, at France's initiative.

Ten days ago, the US Secretary of State, Mr. Powell, reported the alleged links between al-Qaeda and the regime in Baghdad. Given the present state of our research and intelligence, in liaison with our allies, nothing allows us to establish such links. On the other hand, we must assess the impact that disputed military action would have on this plan. Would not such intervention be liable to exacerbate the divisions between societies, cultures and peoples, divisions that nurture terrorism?

France has said all along: We do not exclude the possibility that force may have to be used one day if the inspectors' reports concluded that it was impossible to continue the inspections. The Council would then have to take a decision, and its members would have to meet all their responsibilities. In such an eventuality, I want to recall here the questions I emphasized at our last debate on February 4 which we must answer:

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

How do we ensure that the considerable risks of such intervention can actually be kept under control?

In any case, in such an eventuality, it is indeed the unity of the international community that would guarantee its effectiveness. Similarly, it is the United Nations that will be tomorrow at the center of the peace to be built whatever happens.

Mr. President, to those who are wondering in anguish when and how we are going to cede to war, I would like to tell them that nothing, at any time, in this Security Council, will be done in haste, misunderstanding, suspicion or fear.

In this temple of the United Nations, we are the guardians of an ideal, the guardians of a conscience. The onerous responsibility and immense honor we have must lead us to give priority to disarmament in peace.

This message comes to you today from an old country, France, from a continent like mine, Europe, that has known wars, occupation and barbarity. A country that does not forget and knows everything it owes to the freedom-fighters who came from America and elsewhere. And yet has never ceased to stand upright in the face of history and before mankind. Faithful to its values, it wishes resolutely to act with all the members of the international community. It believes in our ability to build together a better world.

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).