Chirac calls for immediate Iraqi self rule, says Saddam should have been toppled ''without a war''
French President Jacques Chirac calls for the immediate transfer of sovereignty in Iraq to the Iraqi people, and indicated that Paris would approve only a new United Nations resolution that recognized this need.
In an interview with the New York Times, published on Monday, Chirac for the first time put out a two-stage plan for Iraqi self-rule, the first stage being a symbolic transfer of sovereignty from U.S. hands to the existing 25-member Iraqi Governing Council (IGC), followed by the gradual ceding of real power over a period of about six to nine months.
Chirac added that if the UN Security Council, France included, could agree on empowering Iraqis at once, France would be ready to train Iraqi police officers and soldiers - either in or out of Iraq.
Chirac also told the Times that his country had no intention of sending troops to be part of the US-led occupation force, although he suggested that circumstances could change.
"There will be no concrete solution unless sovereignty is transferred to Iraq as quickly as possible," Chirac said in the interview, speaking just before he left for the United States, where he is expected to meet U.S. President George W. Bush on Tuesday.
The Bush administration is proposing the United Nations resolution to attract more foreign troops and international funds to Iraq.
Chirac, for his part, made clear that he did not intend to veto that resolution, unless it became "provocative." He explained, "We don't have the intention to oppose. If we oppose it, that would mean voting 'no,' that is to say, to use the veto. I am not in that mind-set at all."
However, he said Paris would vote for the resolution only if it included a deadline for the transfer of sovereignty and a timetable for the transfer of power, as well as a "key role" for the United Nations. Otherwise, he said, France will abstain.
Without Iraqi self-rule, he added, there is the dangerous situation of a "governor who is Christian and foreign" administering an Arab and Muslim country, and that is "a very difficult situation for any people to accept in the 21st century."
With regards to sending French combat troops to Iraq, the French leader said, "We are talking about training, and not sending troops to Iraq, of course."
However, at another point, during the interview, he was a bit less categorical. After saying, "As things are now, there is no situation where I can imagine that France would send troops to Iraq," he added, "Everything could change. I don't have a crystal ball. But for the moment, this is the position of France and the position of a number of countries."
Chirac added that whenever U.S. soldiers are killed in Iraq, "it hurts us," and rejected any suggestion that the aim of his proposal was to provoke the United States. "I want you to understand that I'm not saying 'white' because the Americans say 'black,'", he stressed.
Rather, he said, his goal was to engineer in Iraq a system similar to the one in Afghanistan, where the Afghan leader has full sovereignty over the country, while the United States and its coalition partners keep the peace through the presence of their troops.
"I am not inventing anything extraordinary, as I have read somewhere, simply to annoy the United States," he said of his ideas for ways out of what he called an increasingly dangerous situation in Iraq.
Moreover, Chirac said France would be willing to provide financial support and military and police training for Iraq once sovereignty was transferred to the Iraqis.
Despite his insistence on a quick, symbolic transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis, Chirac stated paradoxically that elections had to be handled with care, because the majority of Iraqis belong to the Shiite branch of Islam.
"Are the Shiites in this analysis the real symbol of tomorrow's democracy?" he asked. "It is not so obvious."
With regards to the former Iraqi leader, Chirac said it was "absolutely not" wrong to overthrow Saddam Hussein, but that he should have been overthrown "without a war."
Asked whether he had been tempted to tell U.S. President Bush, "You were wrong," he replied, "On subjects as complex as this, it is always wrong to think that you are right and the other person is always necessarily wrong. This is a serious mistake, and you always pay the consequences." (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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