Chirac: World not safer after Iraq war

Last year's US-led invasion of Iraq and ousting of President Saddam Hussein has made the world more dangerous, French President Jacques Chirac said.

    France's president opposed last year's US-led invasion of Iraq

    "I'm not at all sure that one can say the world is safer,"

    Chirac told the BBC on the eve of a state visit to Britian.

    "There is no doubt there has been an increase in


    He said: "To a certain extent Saddam Hussein's departure was a

    positive thing but it also provoked reaction such as the

    mobilisation in a number of countries of men and women of Islam

    which has made the world more dangerous."

    The full interview with the BBC is to be aired on Wednesday

    evening as Chirac prepares to fly to Britain on Thursday to meet

    Blair, Queen Elizabeth and business leaders to celebrate 100

    years of the Entente Cordiale - an agreement that brought about

    French-British cooperation after a long history of rivalry.

    Chirac, whose strong opposition to the war prompted US

    Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to dismiss France as part of

    "Old Europe", has questioned what Blair has gained from his

    unstinting support of the invasion.

    Bitter infighting

    In a newspaper interview on Tuesday, Chirac said he had

    urged Britain before the invasion to press US President George

    Bush to revive the Middle East peace process in return for

    Britain's support for the war.

    "Well, Britain gave its support but I did not see much in

    return," Chirac was quoted as saying in The Times. "I am not

    sure that it is in the nature of our American friends at the

    moment to return favours systematically."

    Chirac said Saddam's departure
    was a positive thing

    Blair's support for the war prompted bitter faction fighting

    inside his ruling Labour Party and has eroded his public approval

    ratings before elections expected by mid-2005.

    A poll in the Independent newspaper on Wednesday showed that

    64% of the British public believed that having good

    relations with continental Europe was more important than

    maintaining close ties with Washington.

    In the Times interview, Chirac recalled a Franco-British

    summit last year when he asked Blair to try to influence US

    policy on the Middle East.

    Differences over Iraq

    "I said then to Tony Blair: 'We have different positions on

    Iraq. Your position should at least have some use'. That is to

    try to obtain in exchange a relaunch of the peace process in the

    Middle East."

    The French leader questioned whether Britain could act as a

    bridge between the United States and Europe to help heal the

    transatlantic rift.

    "Saddam Hussein's departure ... 

    provoked reaction such as the

    mobilisation in a number of countries of men and women of Islam

    which has made the world
    more dangerous"

    Jacques Chirac,
    French President

    "I am not sure, with America as it is these days, that it

    would be easy for someone, even the British, to be an honest

    broker," he said.

    Blair called on Monday for Europe and the United States to

    bury their differences over Iraq and focus on global challenges.

    "It is not a sensible or intelligent response for us in

    Europe to ridicule American arguments and parody their political

    leadership," Blair said in a major foreign policy speech.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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