The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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France firm on using veto power

New Delhi, March 11: France has made it clear that if push comes to shove, it will use its veto power in the United Nations Security Council to block a second resolution that the US is trying to bring in to get the international community’s sanction for declaring war against Iraq.

“Veto in the UN is a very serious diplomatic weapon,” French ambassador in India Dominique Girard told The Telegraph today. “It is better not to have a draft resolution. It is better if they (those supporting war) do not get a majority.”

“We are quite keen to sustain our policy. We have not formally announced the use of our veto power. But we are going to oppose a second resolution,” he said.

A US-initiated resolution is likely to be placed in the Security Council in a day or two. If passed, it will get the Americans a nod from the international community to go to war in Iraq.

The resolution, however, needs to bag at least nine of the 15 votes in the council to pass muster. Even if the resolution gets a majority vote, it can still be blocked if either France, Russia or China –- three of the five permanent Security Council members — use their veto. The UK, another permanent council member, has decided to support the US.

Explaining his country’s stand on the Iraq crisis, Girard said like the US and other countries, France, too, believes Saddam Hussein is dangerous because Iraq is not sincere in giving up its weapons of mass destruction.

But France is also of the view that the time for war has not yet come, and the objective of disarming Saddam can be better achieved by the arms inspectors.

“Despite the hype about the 1991 Gulf War, military action on Iraq then had only managed to destroy a tiny bit of Saddam Hussein’s weapons. The bulk of his arsenal was dismantled and destroyed through the arms inspectors,” Girard said.

The international community’s objective, he argued, was to disarm Iraq, not bring about a regime change. “It is not for us to decide what kind of government should be in power in Iraq.”

The French envoy emphasised that his country should not be seen as one opposed to war in general. “We are not opposed to war. We are not wimps or pacifists. We are pragmatic people. But a war on Iraq at this point is unnecessary and we don’t want any automaticity (diplomatese for automatic capacity) for the US to go to war,” he said.

According to Girard, a war in Iraq will have serious consequences for the world. “There will be more terrorism, there will be more religious polarisation, there will be more attacks in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” And there will be serious economic consequences.

On the likelihood of French ties with the US being affected, he said: “We are not vassals who are there to follow their masters. The Americans are our loyal friends. We may disagree on Iraq, but there are a number of issues on which we agree and where we are working closely together.”

He believes that in the current situation, the lesson for the international community is to make the UN stronger and more relevant. Otherwise, the international community will become irrelevant, he said.

“You have a choice, either to have faith in the UN or in the US,” Girard said. “If the UN says no to war and defeats the American resolution, then the international community would have spoken.”

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