French Troops Readied for War

January 7, 2003

The French president, Jacques Chirac, today gave his clearest indication yet that France could participate in a US-led war against Iraq as he called on troops to be ready for possible deployment. Mr Chirac said there was reason to believe that French forces will continue to be needed in certain "operational theatres", a reference to civil unrest in the Ivory Coast, where more than 2,000 French troops are currently engaged.

But then, speaking during annual new year's wishes to France's armed forces, he added that, "alas, other [theatres] could open up", a clear reference to Iraq. "To be prepared is at the heart of the soldier's job," Mr Chirac said, adding: "In particular, we have to be attentive to the way in which United Nations security council resolution 1441 is applied by Iraq." This is the crucial resolution that entitles UN weapons inspectors to visit any facility or property in Iraq at any time and warns Baghdad of serious consequences if it fails to comply with weapons inspections.

Paris has been opposed from the beginning to unilateral US action in Iraq and has demanded that Washington get UN security council approval before sending in the troops. But the White House is likely to be encouraged by Mr Chirac's comments today.

However any French support of US action is still likely to be qualified and reluctant. France's defence minister, Michele Alliot-Marie, told French radio station RTL earlier today that the French army was not making specific preparations for an eventual war in Iraq but that "the French army is ready to fulfill its obligations when necessary".

Ms Alliot-Marie reiterated France's stance on Iraq, saying that any armed intervention must be used only as a last resort in forcing Saddam Hussein to comply with UN disarmament resolutions. She added that for the moment, UN weapons inspectors have faced "no hindrances" in the course of their work.

The UN inspectors' first report is due on January 27, a deadline which Washington has identified as the point at which the US president, George Bush, would begin his decision-making on whether to go to war to disarm Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and end his 35-year rule.

Mr Chirac spoke as the prime minister, Tony Blair, was reaffirming Britain's strong backing of the Bush administrations standoff with Iraq.

More Articles on the Threat of War Against Iraq

FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.