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The Choice Is Indeed Between Two Visions of the World

The Choice Is Indeed Between Two Visions of the World

Iraq: Address by Dominique de Villepin, French Minister of Foreign Affairs, before the United Nations Security Council. Source: Quai d'Orsay, New York and Paris, March 19, 2003.

Dominique de Villepin meets the press after his address (E/S Photo)

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, Ministers, Ambassadors,

We are meeting here today a few hours before the weapons sound. To exchange our convictions again in observance of our respective commitments. But also to outline together the paths that must allow us to recover the spirit of unity.

I wish to reiterate here that for France war can only be the exception, and collective responsibility the rule. Whatever our aversion for Saddam Hussein's cruel regime, that holds true for Iraq and for all the crises that we will have to confront together.

1 - To Mr. Blix, who presented his work program to us, and Mr. ElBaradei, who was represented today, I want to say thank you for the sustained efforts and for the results achieved. Their program is a reminder that there is still a clear and credible prospect for disarming Iraq peacefully. It proposes and prioritizes the tasks for such disarmament and presents a realistic timetable for their implementation.

In doing so the report confirms what we all know here : Yes, the inspections are producing tangible results. Yes, they offer the prospect of effective disarmament through peaceful means and in shorter time-frames.

The path we mapped out together in the context of resolution 1441 still exists. In spite of the fact that it has been interrupted today, we know that it will have to resume as soon as possible.

The Council took note two days ago of the Secretary-General's decision to withdraw the inspectors and all UN personnel from Iraq. The discharge of their mandates has consequently been suspended. It will be necessary when the time comes to complete our knowledge about Iraq's programs and finish disarming Iraq. The contribution of the inspectors will be decisive at that time.

2 - Make no mistake about it: the choice is indeed between two visions of the world.

To those who choose to use force and think they can resolve the world's complexity through swift and preventive action, we offer in contrast determined action over time. For today, to ensure our security, all the dimensions of the problem must be taken into account : both the manifold crises and their many facets, including cultural and religious. Nothing lasting in international relations can be built therefore without dialogue and without respect for the other, without exigency and abiding by principles, especially for the democracies that must set the example. To ignore this is to run the risk of misunderstanding, radicalization and spiraling violence. This is even more true in the Middle East, an area of fractures and ancient conflicts where stability must be a major objective for us.

To those who hope to eliminate the dangers of proliferation through armed intervention in Iraq, I wish to say that we regret that they are depriving themselves of a key tool for other crises of the same type. The Iraq crisis allowed us craft an instrument, through the inspections regime, which is unprecedented and can serve as an example. Why, on this basis not envision establishing an innovative, permanent structure, a disarmament body under the United Nations ?

To those who think that the scourge of terrorism will be eradicated through the case of Iraq, we say they run the risk of failing in their objective. The outbreak of force in this area which is so unstable can only exacerbate the tensions and fractures on which the terrorists feed.

3 - Over and above our division, we have a collective responsibility in the face of these threats, the responsibility to recover the unity of the international community. The United Nations must remain mobilized in Iraq to aid this objective. Together, we have duties to assume in this perspective.

First of all, to staunch the wounds, the wounds of war. As always, war brings with it its share of victims, suffering and displaced people. So it is a matter of urgency to prepare now to provide the requisite humanitarian assistance. This imperative must prevail over our differences. The Secretary-General has already begun to mobilize the various UN agencies to this end. France will take its full part in the collective effort to assist the Iraqi people. The oil-for-food program must be continued under the authority of the Security Council with the necessary adjustments. We are waiting for the Secretary-General's proposals.

Next, it is necessary to build peace. No country by itself has the means to build Iraq's future. In particular, no state can claim the necessary legitimacy. It is from the United Nations alone that the legal and moral authority can come for such an undertaking. Two principles must guide our action : respect for the unity and territorial integrity of Iraq ; and the preservation of its sovereignty.

By the same token, it is for the United Nations to set out the framework for the country's economic reconstruction. A framework that will have to affirm the two complementary principles of transparency and development of the country's resources for the benefit of the Iraqis themselves.

4 - Our mobilization must also extend to the other threats that we have to address together.

Given the very nature of these threats, it is no longer possible today to address them in any old order. By way of example, terrorism is fueled by organized crime networks ; it cleaves to the contours of lawless areas ; it thrives on regional crises ; it garners support from the divisions in the world ; it utilizes all available resources, from the most rudimentary to the most sophisticated, from the knife to the weapons of mass destruction it is trying to acquire.

To deal with this reality, we must act in a united way and on all fronts at the same time.

5 - So we must remain constantly mobilized.

In this spirit France renews its call for the heads of state and government to meet here in the Security Council in New York, to respond to the major challenges confronting us.

Let us intensify our fight against terrorism. Let us fight mercilessly against its networks with all the economic, juridical and political weapons available to us.

Let us give new impetus to the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. France has already proposed that our heads of state and government meet on the sidelines of the next General Assembly to define the new priorities for our action.

Let us recover the initiative in the regional conflicts that are destabilizing entire regions. I am thinking in particular of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. How much suffering must the peoples of the region still endure for us to force the doors to peace ? Let us not resign ourselves to the irreparable.

In a world where the threat is asymmetrical, where the weak defy the strong, the power of conviction, the capacity to convince, the ability to sway opinion count as much as the number of divisions. They do not replace them. But they are the indispensable aids of a state's influence.

6 - Faced with this new world, it is imperative that the action of the international community should be guided by principles.

  • First of all, respect for law.

The keystone of international order, it must apply in all circumstances, but even more so when the gravest decision is to be made : to use force. Only on this condition can force be legitimate. Only on this condition can it restore order and peace.

  • Next, the defense of freedom and justice.

We must not compromise with what is central to our values. We will be listened to and heeded only if we are inspired by the very ideals of the United Nations.

  • Lastly, the spirit of dialogue and tolerance.

Never have the peoples of the world aspired so forcefully to its respect. We must listen to their appeal.

Mr. President, as we see clearly, the United Nations has never been so necessary. It is up to this body to harness all the resolve to meet these challenges. Because the United Nations is the place where international rules and legitimacy are founded. Because it speaks in the name of peoples.

In response to the clash of arms there must be a single upwelling of the spirit of responsibility, voice and gesture from the international community that is gathered here in New York, in the Security Council.

This is in the interest of all : the countries engaged in the conflict, the states and peoples in the region, the international community as a whole. Confronted with a world in crisis, we have a moral and political obligation to restore the threads of hope and unity.

The judgment of future generations will depend on our capacity to meet this great challenge-in furtherance of our values, our common destiny and peace.

Thank you Mr. President.

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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).