Chirac Caves to Bush and Blair

PARIS (IPS) – France has finally rallied behind the United States and Britain over Iraq despite earlier insistence on an independent foreign policy.

France has backed the U.S.-British proposal for a new United Nations Security Council resolution on Iraq even though it ignores its demand to give an Iraqi administration veto right in military matters.

French foreign minister Michel Barnier announced Tuesday that France would approve the UN resolution because “for the first time there has been a real dialogue between the United States and Europe on the Iraq question.”

Barnier admitted that the newest U.S.-British draft for the resolution – the fourth within a month – left out French amendments that sought to empower the Iraqi government to veto “offensive military operations” launched by the U.S.-led occupation forces.

But Barnier said the new UN resolution is “a return to a situation where international law is again valid” in Iraq.

The U.S. government “has finally understood that there won’t be a resolution of the Iraqi crisis through military means, that it is necessary to return to a political process to end this tragedy, to give the Iraqi people a legitimate government,” Barnier said.

As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, France could have vetoed the U.S.-British resolution.

Along with France, other countries such as Germany, Algeria, Mexico, Chile, Russia and China also gave up their opposition to the U.S.-British draft, and approved the document.

France has additionally accepted the U.S. demand to partially cancel the Iraqi foreign debt.

French President Jacques Chirac announced last week that his government will cancel up to 50 percent of the $5 billion Iraq owes France.

Iraq’s foreign debt amounts to some $120 billion. The U.S. government is asking creditors to write off 90 percent of this debt.

Given the strong U.S. control over the interim Iraqi government due to take office June 30, it is most likely that Iraqi imports will come from the U.S. military and oil industry, Attali said.

“This is the latest U.S. hold-up in Iraq. European governments should reject the U.S. demands for canceling the Iraqi debt,” Attali said.

France had opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March last year. It has maintained that position, but in the course of ceremonies to mark the 60th anniversary of D-Day last week, Chirac and U.S. President George W. Bush put their conflicts aside.

On June 6, 1944 some 156,000 U.S., British, Canadian, and Australian troops landed on the French coast of Normandy in a massive allied attack that brought an end to the German occupation of France. About 10,300 allied soldiers died that day, and are buried in several cemeteries near the beaches.

The anniversary ceremonies took place on Chirac’s wish.

Several French analysts had said France would welcome Bush with mixed feelings for launching the war on Iraq on spurious grounds, but the French government offered the U.S. President a unique opportunity to project himself as a prudent head of state.

As an editorial comment in the French daily Le Monde put it, “despite the poisonous atmosphere reigning over Iraq, Chirac has succeeded in putting Bush’s visit to France under the symbol of gratitude.”

It added: “France did everything to spare Bush grounds for embarrassment. We rolled out the red carpet for him, and (Chirac) avoided mentioning Iraq. The UN was only mentioned twice during the weekend.”

This kind of projection will help Bush’s election campaign, the article added.

France is now expected to support U.S. positions during the summit of the group of eight most industrialized countries, which opens on June 9 in Sea Island, 80 miles south of Savannah in Georgia in the United States.