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There Is Another Logic Beside That of Force

There Is Another Logic Beside That of Force

Speech by the French Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin, before the United Nations Security Council. New York, March 7, 2003. Source: Quai d'Orsay, Paris.

Mr. President,

Mr. Secretary-General,



I would like to begin by telling you how pleased France is, that on this decisive day, the Security Council is being presided over by Guinea, by an African.

I would like to thank Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei for the presentation they have just given us. Their reports testify to regular progress in the disarmament of Iraq.

What have the inspectors told us? That for a month, Iraq has been actively cooperating with them. That substantial progress has been made in the area of ballistics with the progressive destruction of Al Samoud 2 missiles and their equipment. That new prospects are opening up with the recent questioning of several scientists. Significant evidence of real disarmament has now been observed. And that indeed is the key to resolution 1441.

With solemnity, therefore, before this body, I would like to ask a question—the very same question being asked by people all over the world: Why should we today engage in a war with Iraq?

And I would also like to ask: Why smash the instruments that have just proven their effectiveness? Why choose division when our unity and our resolve are leading Iraq to get rid of its weapons of mass destruction? Why should we wish to proceed, at any price, by force when we can succeed peacefully?

War is always an acknowledgement of failure. Let us not resign ourselves to the irreparable.

Before making our choice, let us weigh the consequences, let us measure the effects of our decision.

We all see it: In Iraq, we are resolutely moving toward completely eliminating programs of weapons of mass destruction.

The method that we have chosen works: The information supplied by Baghdad has been verified by the inspectors, and is leading to the elimination of banned ballistic equipment.

We are proceeding the same way with all the other programs: with information, verification, destruction.

We already have useful information in the biological and chemical domains. In response to questions by the inspectors, Iraq must give us further information in a timely fashion, so that we may obtain the most precise possible knowledge about any existing inventories or programs.

On the basis of this information, we will destroy all the components that are discovered, as we are doing for the missiles, and will determine what the truth is.

With regard to nuclear weapons, Mr. ElBaradei's statements confirm that we are approaching the time when the IAEA will be able to certify the dismantlement of the Iraq program.

What conclusions can we draw? That Iraq, according to the very terms used by the inspectors, represents less of a danger to the world than it did in 1991. That we can achieve our objective of effectively disarming that country.

  • Let us keep the pressure on Baghdad.

The adoption of resolution 1441, the assumption of converging positions by the vast majority of the world's nations, diplomatic actions by the Organization of African Unity, the League of Arab States, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Non-Aligned Movement—all of these common efforts are bearing fruit.

The American and British military presence in the region lends support to our collective resolve.

We all recognize the effectiveness of this pressure on the part of the international community. We must use it to go through with our objective of disarmament through inspections. As the European Union noted, these inspections cannot continue indefinitely. The pace must therefore be stepped up.

  • That is why France wants to make three proposals today:

-- First, let us ask the inspectors to establish a hierarchy of tasks for disarmament and, on that basis, to present us as quickly as possible with the work program provided for by resolution 1284. We need to know immediately what the priority issues are that could constitute key disarmament tasks to be carried out by Iraq.

-- Second, we propose that the inspectors give us a progress report every three weeks. That will make the Iraqi authorities understand that in no case may they interrupt their efforts.

-- Finally, let us establish a schedule for assessing the implementation of the work program. Resolution 1284 provides for a time frame of 120 days. We are willing to shorten it, if the inspectors consider it feasible.

The military agenda must not dictate the calendar of inspections. We agree to timetables and to an accelerated calendar. But we cannot accept an ultimatum as long as the inspectors are reporting cooperation.

That would mean war. It would lead the Security Council to relinquish its responsibilities. By imposing a deadline of a few days, would we be reduced to seeking a pretext for war?

As a permanent member of the Security Council, I will say it again:

France will not allow a resolution to pass that authorizes the automatic use of force.

Let us consider the anguish and the waiting of people all around the world, in all our countries, from Cairo to Rio, from Algiers to Pretoria, from Rome to Jakarta.

  • Indeed, the stakes transcend the case of Iraq alone.

Let us look at things lucidly: We are defining a method to resolve crises. We are choosing to define the world we want our children to live in.

That is true in the case of North Korea, in the case of Southern Asia, where we have not yet found the path toward a lasting resolution of disputes. It is true in the case of the Mideast: Can we continue to wait while acts of violence multiply?

These crises have many roots: They are political, religious, economic.

Their origins lie in the tumult of centuries. There may be some who believe that these problems can be resolved by force, thereby creating a new order. That is not France's conviction. On the contrary, we believe that the use of force can arouse rancor and hatred, fuel a clash of identities, of cultures—something that our generation has, precisely, a prime responsibility to avoid.

To those who believe that war would be the quickest way to disarm Iraq, I say it will establish gulfs and create wounds that are long in healing. And how many victims will it bring, how many grieving families?

We do not subscribe to what may be the other objectives of a war.

-- Is it a matter of regime change in Baghdad? No one underestimates the cruelty of this dictatorship and the need to do everything possible to promote human rights. That is not the objective of resolution 1441. And force is certainly not the best way to bring about democracy. It would encourage dangerous instability, there and elsewhere

-- Is it a matter of fighting terrorism? War would only increase it, and we could then be faced with a new wave of violence. Let us beware of playing into the hands of those who want a clash of civilizations, a clash of religions.

-- Or is it, finally, a matter of remolding the political landscape of the Middle East? In that case, we run the risk of exacerbating tensions in a region already marked by great instability. Not to mention that in Iraq itself, the large number of communities and religions already represents the danger of a potential break-up.

We all have the same demands:

  • more security,
  • more democracy.

But there is another logic beside that of force, another path, other solutions.

We understand the profound sense of insecurity with which the American people have been living since the tragedy of September 11, 2001. The entire world shared the sorrow of New York and of America, struck in the heart. I say this in the name of our friendship for the American people, in the name of our common values: freedom, justice, tolerance.

But there is nothing today that indicates a link between the Iraqi regime and al Qaeda. And will the world be a safer place after a military intervention in Iraq? I want to tell you what my country's conviction is: No.

Four months ago, we unanimously adopted a system of inspections to eliminate the threat of potential weapons of mass destruction and guarantee our security. Today we cannot accept, without contradicting ourselves, a conflict that might well weaken it.

Yes, we too want more democracy in the world. But we will achieve this objective only within the framework of a true global democracy based on respect, sharing, the awareness of a true community of values and a common destiny. And its heart is the United Nations.

Let us make no mistake: In the face of multiple and complex threats there is no one response, but a single necessity: We must remain united.

Today we must invent, together, a new future for the Middle East. Let us not forget the immense hope created by the efforts of the Madrid Conference and the Oslo Agreement. Let us not forget that the Mideast crisis represents our greatest challenge in terms of security and justice. For us, the Mideast, like Iraq, represents a priority commitment.

This calls for great ambition and even greater boldness: We should envision a region transformed through peace; civilizations that, through the courage of the outstretched hand, rediscover their self-confidence and an international prestige equal to their long history and their aspirations.

In a few days, we must solemnly fulfill our responsibility through a vote. We will be facing an essential choice: Disarming Iraq through war or through peace. And this crucial choice implies others: It implies the international community's ability to resolve current or future crises.

It implies a vision of the world, a concept of the role of the United Nations.

France believes that to make this choice, to make it in good conscience in this forum of international democracy, before their people and before the world, the heads of state and government must meet again here in New York, at the Security Council.

It is in everyone's interest. We must rediscover the fundamental vocation of the United Nations: to allow each of its members to assume its responsibilities in the face of the Iraqi crisis but also to seize, together, the destiny of a world in crisis and thus re-create the conditions for our future unity.


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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).