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Iraq : The International Community Can't Wait Any Longer

Interview given by M. Dominique de Villepin, French Minister of Foreign Affairs, to Europe 1 Radio. (Excerpts) Paris, 13 November 2003. Source: Embassy of France, Washington D.C.

Question: Has the time come to change strategy in Iraq?

Dominique de Villepin: The international community can't wait any longer. As we see every day, there's a spiral of violence in Iraq: American deaths, British, Italian, Spanish and Polish deaths. How many deaths must there be before people understand that it's essential to change tack?

Question: Even the CIA thinks that Iraqi civilians are beginning to opt for violent action. Guerrilla warfare is going to increase and spread, there's this risk in everything. Is that your impression?

Dominique de Villepin: Yes, the spiral of violence is due both to the growing number of forces – groups and terrorist networks – and at the same time we're seeing the conflation of these forces with the nationalist and Islamist forces. And this is clearly the risk: that in the end very different objectives lead to the same outcome, i.e. the choice of violence. This is why we're saying that the security-orientated approach, the uniquely military approach can't cool the situation in Iraq, can't lead to Iraq's reconstruction. There has to be a political approach to dissociate these factors of violence, these terrorist groups, from all those who want to get rid of an occupying regime in Iraq.

Question: Do you feel here that we're at a particularly important moment?

Dominique de Villepin: Yes, it's a particularly important moment because there is, today in the United States, a realization of what's really at stake. People are clearly seeing the limits of the policy now being pursued. Obviously, US representatives on the ground are continuing to use the same old language of every governor, in every occupying regime in the world: "just a bit more time". Unfortunately, time today means [more] deaths.

Question: The American press is beginning to find that events are proving France right. It's perhaps a fragile start. Are the leaders showing you the same signs of movement?

Dominique de Villepin: There is today a desire for more consultation. But I don't think that's enough. President Bush, Colin Powell are going to be in Europe, in London before the end of the month. Colin Powell will be in Brussels and I and my European colleagues will have the opportunity to meet him.

Question: But Mr Bush isn't coming to Paris?

Dominique de Villepin: Mr Bush isn't coming to Paris, but today we are ready for any meetings, any consultations, and this morning I want to hold out my hand to our American friends because it's an issue which concerns everyone. It's a matter of world security. We see Iraq's situation. We see the situation of Iran where there is a proliferation crisis which we must together be capable of dealing with peacefully. There's a crisis in Afghanistan.

Question: You mean there's a whole raft of problems and a need for a global vision?

Dominique de Villepin: A global approach is vital. We must mobilize our capabilities. We've all had experience of this type of situation. So the international community must act. In Iraq, it's quite clear, we should have a special envoy from the United Nations Secretary- General capable, on the spot, of working in cooperation with Paul Bremer, the American representative.

Question: So with powers?

Dominique de Villepin: There's no question today of asking the US troops to pull out. The Americans have begun an operation, it must be completed to bring greater security, but this must be under the aegis of the Iraqis themselves. Iraqi sovereignty must be the starting point. A representative assembly could be appointed by the Governing Council, out of the various existing Iraqi bodies, but broadened to achieve the greatest possible legitimacy. It should appoint a provisional Iraqi government before the end of the year. I hear talk of summer 2004. All this is far too late. It's a matter of urgency. The provisional government must be able to take over the reins in Iraq and every one of us must contribute in accordance with this government's specific requests. I believe this is the solution.

Question: What could be – since France's position is shifting a bit – the contribution of the French [in terms of manpower and material support]?

Dominique de Villepin: We have said this from the outset. We are ready to contribute to Iraq's development.

Question: But you've been saying: no money, no soldiers?

Dominique de Villepin: We want to help but – and this is the condition we're setting – we want to do so in response to requests by an Iraqi government. It's for the Iraqis to say how they wish security to be achieved and how they think it can be. I'm going to tell you an anecdote. Mrs Hashimi, who was an eminent member of the Iraqi Governing Council, was in Paris, a few weeks ago, a few days before her death. She died as a result of a terrorist attack in Iraq. She told me: "You know when US troops come across black marketeers in Baghdad, none of the black marketeers bat an eyelid. When a few Iraqis armed with truncheons come across them, everyone who has something to feel guilty about immediately flees". That shows you that the Iraqis are better placed than anyone else to enforce order and security in Iraq. The Iraqis are telling us: "this is how we think you can make a useful contribution to security, particularly by protecting our borders".

Question: But, this morning, does legitimacy still require us to go through the United Nations?

Dominique de Villepin: Legitimacy requires us going through the international community, with the United Nations, with the United States who are engaged on the ground and who must go on doing what they're doing, but under the Iraqis' aegis. It's for the Iraqis to tell us how they wish things to be. Take the example of security. If the Iraqis consider they are better placed than the occupation forces to resolve the security problem in the towns, if they think efforts need to be concentrated on the borders – all matters which are arising – I think we have to concur since the Iraqis are, by definition, far more familiar with their country than we are.

Question: What can President Bush expect from France?

Dominique de Villepin: That she will show solidarity, initiate proposals and display courage. France is an ally and friend of the United States. From the start of this tragic crisis, we have always been willing to propose to our American friends what we believe to be the right path.

Question: But, between ourselves, you know that you are sometimes suspected in America of not wanting agreement with the Americans, you personally?

Dominique de Villepin: History will tell. The history of Franco-US relations throughout these past months has constantly been one of France making proposals to try to find the right way to resolve the crisis. We are doing this again today by saying: the only way out of the present difficulties is through a political approach, a collective approach, i.e. of the whole international community. We are ready for any discussions, any meetings. (...)

Question: I sense a degree of urgency in what you are saying since you probably feel that time is no one's friend, and in any case not Washington's?

Dominique de Villepin: Time is no one's friend. We must act and we can't accept as inevitable the rising daily death toll in Iraq.

Question: On 1 December, a ceremony is taking place for the Peace Charter. 200 Palestinians and 200 Israelis, including many representatives of civil society, are going to participate in it together with Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton. The negotiators have briefed you personally at the Quai d'Orsay. Does France support this Geneva initiative?

Dominique de Villepin: France supports all the initiatives. We think that the road-map which was defined by the international community and accepted by all the parties is the right framework and that the Geneva Accord lights the way forward. It also contributes something. Today there's a new Palestinian government and so we have the conditions for resuming this vital quest for peace. If we don't do this, here too, there will be more violence, more terrorism. Let's mobilize! We know the solution: the creation of a Palestinian State. You can't have justice for some and not for others. You can't want peace and justice in Iraq without wanting peace and justice in the Middle East. These peoples are peoples longing for peace, but at the same time they want justice.

Question: I forgot to ask you: is it necessary to have a new United Nations resolution on Iraq?

Dominique de Villepin: There will have to be a new resolution once an Iraqi assembly and provisional government have been formed in order to confer their rightful authority and sovereignty on them.


Question: You proposed a few days ago, to a discussion club, a Franco-German union. What do you mean by that?

Dominique de Villepin: The idea is to look ahead. We need something to aim for. We need, some would say, a utopian ideal. Of course, the aim isn't in any way to give up our sovereignties. It's a matter of uniting our strengths.


Question: Give me some examples of where there could be major integration.

Dominique de Villepin: Today, our European Union will be stronger because of the constantly reaffirmed determination of our two States every day to work more together. A few examples: on the diplomatic front, the instructions we give our Mission in New York and our Mission to the European Union in Brussels are developed jointly with our German friends. We are increasing the number of joint French and German diplomatic premises.

Question: Would you accept a single seat at the United Nations, a single commissioner in Brussels?

Dominique de Villepin: (...) Today all our States shoulder their responsibilities as sovereign nations and, what's important, is for us to come together in this way, combine our resources and work more closely together. We want, in the face of a certain scepticism we note in various quarters in Europe, in the face of some doubts, and some difficulties, to signal France and Germany's will to move forward in the spirit of Europe, with resolution and conviction.

Question: Without forgetting the others?

Dominique de Villepin: At no moment. The aim is to inject impetus and signal movement. (...)./

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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).