Chirac to resist control of postwar Iraq by US allies
By George Parker, Krishna Guha and Judy Dempsey in Brussels
Financial Times, UK - 21 March:
Jacques Chirac, French president, on Friday ended the fragile truce at the European Union summit in Brussels with a strong attack on the "illegal" US-British attack on Iraq.
Mr Chirac signalled that France would campaign through the United Nations to keep any American or British involvement in the running of postwar Iraq to a minimum.
Just hours after Tony Blair, British prime minister, called for a new UN resolution on the reconstruction of Iraq, Mr Chirac said France would not accept a dominant US and British role in such efforts.
"France will not accept a resolution that would legitimise military intervention and give the US and British the powers of administration in Iraq," he said.
Mr Chirac, in his end-of-summit press conference, also toughened his rhetoric against the war allies, claiming their action "breached international legality".
His words reflect a French determination that having failed to stop the war, it will attempt to set the terms of the peace through the UN.
However, British officials played down the significance of Mr Chirac's rhetoric, insisting the French president was prepared to look beyond the crisis towards the postwar future of Iraq.
All 15 EU leaders agreed a communique on Friday calling for the UN to have "a central role" once the war ends, a view endorsed by the British prime minister.
British officials said Mr Chirac's words left "plenty of room for negotiation" over the precise roles for the UN, the US and other countries in administering Iraq.
Speaking in Brussels at his first press conference since the outbreak of war, Mr Blair said Britain and the US were discussing with each other and other EU states "exactly how that process takes place."
But he added: "There is a common view now, not just among the Europeans but with the US, that we have a new UN resolution that authorises, that governs, not merely the humanitarian situation but also the post- Saddam civil authority in Iraq."
Britain will "continue to press the case for further Security Council resolutions, first on the continuation of the oil-for-food programme . . . and secondly on the establishment of a post-Saddam administration".
Mr Blair's remarks are likely to cause consternation among those US hawks who do not want Iraq under UN administration.
Given the divisions over the war, Mr Blair said the summit communique on Iraq was "a good deal more positive than might have been expected".
Mr Chirac had earlier spoken privately to Mr Blair for 10 minutes, expressing his displeasure at recent attacks by British ministers on France.