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Hain apologises

There's more about Hain's remarks in today's (9th November 2000) Times and
Financial Times (UK Criticism mars EU unity on Middle East Unity) - though I
couldn't locate the latter on their web-site.

Lettes to and resp.



The Times
9th November

Hain apologises for calling Paris contemptible


PETER HAIN, the junior Foreign Office minister, was forced to make a
humiliating apology to France yesterday after describing French policy on
Iraq as “contemptible”.
The fiery-tongued minister, who is responsible for Middle Eastern affairs,
said: “These were unscripted remarks in answer to questions on flights and
Iraqi sanctions. We value our co-operation with the French Government . . .
and are working with the French to achieve a common position on the flights
issue . . . This is essential if Iraq is to move forward by international

His remarks contrasted sharply with comments he made at the Royal Institute
of International Affairs on Tuesday. Although Britain and the US still
enforce a United Nations embargo and patrol no-fly zones over the country,
the sanctions policy has unravelled in recent weeks.

Britain was clearly upset by the arrival of a large French trade delegation
and two French flights to Baghdad.

“Frankly, French policy in Iraq has been pretty contemptible,” Mr Hain said.
“It will put back a resolution of the crisis. I think that the French have
absolutely no illusions that we do not welcome their dabbling in this

In addition to being very undiplomatic, Mr Hain’s comments were also poorly
timed, since Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, was in Paris yesterday for
talks with his counterpart, Hubert Védrine.

Mr Cook faced fierce questioning by the French parliamentary foreign affairs
committee over Britain’s policy, but, to his undoubted relief, no mention of
Mr Hain’s gaffe.

Jean-Bernard Raimond called the embargo absurd and said it should be lifted,
a sentiment widely echoed by the committee. Mr Cook made plain his
determination to resist any such moves, saying: “If I thought that by
hugging Saddam Hussein we could produce peace and friendship, then I would
do it.”

In his outburst Mr Hain also directed his criticism at friendly Arab states
such as the United Arab Emirates, especially Dubai, which he accused of
becoming a conduit for smuggled Iraqi oil. Nevertheless, the tirade is
unlikely to have much effect. All of Iraq’s neighbours, apart from Kuwait,
are building up trade with their former enemy.

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