Published on Saturday, October 18, 2003 by the Guardian/UK
France Warns Against Iran Action
Military Intervention Would Be Ridiculous, Says Foreign Minister, Denouncing Policy of Forcible Regime Change
by Simon Tisdall and Ewen MacAskill
The US pursuit of forcible regime change is not a viable or safe policy in the dangerous world that exists after September 11, the French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, said in an interview with the Guardian.
He also said that, in spite of Thursday's UN security council resolution giving the US-British force in Iraq a mandate, "the conditions for real progress on the reconstruction of Iraq are not complied with today".
"Reconstruction has to have a partner, you have to have real sovereignty in Iraq if you want to have the Iraqi people working with you."
Mr De Villepin declined to commit France to providing reconstruction assistance at next week's donors' conference in Madrid, in spite of urgings to do so from Washington.
While emphasizing France's desire to patch up relations with the US and to work with it on a range of international issues, the foreign minister also questioned Israel's US-backed security policies. He said Europe should play a vital role in advancing the peace process, not least because of Europe's close trade and aid links with both sides.
"I think that Israeli policy during the past months and years shows clearly that if you are going to imagine that only through security you are going to find solutions, you are mistaken...
"We think that using force, on the contrary, is going to... give new reasons to some people [like al-Qaida] to oppose us."
Mr De Villepin sketched out a French vision of a radically different approach to foreign policy in which differences of culture, society and religion should be weighed alongside questions of security.
"Regime change can not be a policy on its own in today's world," he said. "You have to be respectful of sovereignty.
"Of course, there are very difficult situations when human rights are concerned... we have known that in Kosovo. So in rare situations, we have to address these kinds of problems by military means. But you have to have the support of the international community... If there is one country that imagines it can solve this matter alone, we are going to see more vengeance, more difficulties, more problems, and the world is going to be more unstable."
Mr De Villepin's remarks underline the continuing differences between France, which led European opposition to the Iraq war, and Washington and London.
During a brief visit to London this week, Mr De Villepin had lunch with the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, and recorded the prestigious Dimbleby Lecture, which will be screened tomorrow on BBC1.
After his visit, it was announced that Mr De Villepin and Mr Straw and the German foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, are to visit Tehran on Monday to try to defuse the nuclear arms row. To the annoyance of the Bush administration, Britain, France and Germany have offered to supply civilian nuclear technology to Iran in return for its abandoning any ambition to seek nuclear weapons capability.
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003