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http://politics.guardian.co.uk/foreignaffairs/comment/0,11538,914693,00.html The gall of France Point the finger of blame elsewhere Leader Saturday March 15, 2003 The Guardian The latest spate of British government and media vilification of France over Iraq is unjustified and distasteful. It is damaging to Britain's own wider interests. It is also less than totally honest. One remark by President Jacques Chirac is at the centre of this storm - his apparent vow, in a television interview last Monday, to veto a second UN resolution "whatever the circumstances". Downing Street said Mr Chirac had "poisoned" the diplomatic process. The foreign secretary, Jack Straw, told this newspaper yesterday that this "extraordinary" intervention has made war more likely. This is a very serious charge. The unmistakable implication is that if the UN refuses to back military action at this time and Britain goes to war regardless, France will somehow be to blame. Without bothering to inquire further, British and American media, notably the Murdoch-owned press, have gleefully taken the government's cue. Yet as a matter of fact, as opposed to a matter of political and chauvinist expediency, the charge levelled at Mr Chirac is unfounded. What he actually said, according to the transcript, is as follows: "My position is that, regardless of the circumstances, France will vote 'no' because she considers this evening that there are no grounds for waging war in order to achieve the goal we have set ourselves, that is to say, to disarm Iraq." The key words here are "this evening". What Mr Chirac clearly meant was that, in circumstances pertaining at that moment in time, France would use its veto. He did not say that would be the case at all times; and indeed, since he spoke, several official statements have made it plain that France is anxious to preserve UN unity and will explore "all opportunities" for compromise. That was the import, too, of his telephone conversation yesterday with Tony Blair. To the extent that Mr Chirac's meaning could have been misinterpreted, he made a tactical mistake. But the overall French position, that war may be supportable but only as a last resort, is not objectively in doubt. Why Mr Straw and others appear deliberately and provocatively to misunderstand it is a more important question. So what is the answer? Britain and the US seem determined to portray France's policy as unreasonable to support Tony Blair's face-saving definition of an "unreasonable veto". Fearing the loss of the war-enabling second resolution for many reasons, but mainly because the vast majority of UN member states regards it as premature and unnecessary, they conspire to pin the blame for their own chronic miscalculations on France. It is fair to suspect Mr Chirac's deeper motives. But it is dishonest to try to scapegoat France's present, logical and in many ways admirable stance on continued inspections for an avoidable crisis that is essentially one made in America. This blame-game is self-defeating. It jeopardises Britain's wider, constant interest in a creative partnership with France, especially in key areas like defence, terrorism, immigration and EU enlargement and reform. It obscures the crucial issue of future US-Europe relations. If the government really feels a need to point the finger, it should look across the Atlantic - or in the mirror. __________________________________________________ Do you Yahoo!? Yahoo! Web Hosting - establish your business online http://webhosting.yahoo.com _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk