PARIS - France's defense minister took a double
swipe at the United States on Saturday, accusing her
counterpart Donald Rumsfeld of American supremacism and U.S.
industry of waging "economic war" on Europe.
Michele Alliot-Marie's remarks, in a newspaper interview,
were the bluntest criticism of Washington by a French official
since presidents Jacques Chirac and George W. Bush skirted
around their differences on Iraq at a summit two weeks ago.
"The American Defense Secretary (Donald Rumsfeld) believes
the United States is the only military, economic and financial
power in the world. We do not share this vision," Alliot-Marie
told Le Monde newspaper in the interview published on Saturday.
The suggestion of superpower arrogance comes days after
Rumsfeld revisited the scene of recent bickering over France's
opposition to the Iraq war by distinguishing between "old" and
"new" Europe -- language which had infuriated Paris in January.
Back in January, Rumsfeld had dismissed France and Germany
as "old Europe" in contrast to a "new Europe" of mostly eastern
European countries more supportive of Washington. He repeated
the controversial barb in Germany on Wednesday.
Alliot-Marie said military and intelligence co-operation
between Paris and Washington had been unaffected by the split
over Iraq. The Pentagon, however, said last month France would
not be invited to a major military exercise in Nevada next
The fallout from the Iraq row was on stark display on
Saturday as top U.S. military and aerospace figures boycotted
the opening of the Paris Air Show -- a prestigious event held
every two years to the noise of American flypasts.
This time, the Pentagon banned the traditional flying
displays by its military pilots and scaled down its presence at
the Le Bourget show in what is widely seen as a deliberate
In her interview, timed to coincide with the world's
largest air show, Alliot-Marie urged European firms to stand
together to resist what she called an American "economic war."
"American industrialists are pursuing a logic of economic
war," she said in the interview, which Le Monde daily said had
been read and cleared by her office before publication.
"This attitude is not connected to the Iraq episode. Faced
with this, European industry must regroup in order to be in a
better position to resist," she added.
European and American planemakers traditionally battle for
airline orders at the Bourget air show outside Paris, but top
executives from firms like Boeing and Lockheed Martin have all
decided not to attend this year.
Alliot-Marie said she was worried by what she sees as moves
by U.S. investors to attempt to take control of firms involved
in European defense and had ordered a study into the issue.
Economics apart, diplomats said France and the United
States remained far apart on the role to be played by
Washington in shaping world affairs.
France used the Group of Eight summit in Evian two weeks
ago to promote a "multipolar" view of the world that Bush
administration officials, including Rumsfeld, are said to view
with exasperation and distrust.
Alliot-Marie's remarks reflect a widely held view in France
that Washington wants to be the sole referee on the world
stage. In contrast, senior U.S. officials such as national
security adviser Condoleezza Rice have questioned why France
wants to counterbalance U.S. power.
© 2003 Reuters Ltd