France Will Oppose New Iraq Resolution
— By Mike Peacock
LONDON (Reuters) - France said on Sunday it opposed a fresh U.N. resolution on Iraq that could trigger war and challenged arguments put forward by Washington and London for using force against Baghdad.
Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, in an interview with BBC Television, said: "Do we need a second resolution? No. Are we going to oppose a second resolution? Yes, as are the Russians and many other countries."
But he avoided using the word "veto" which France, as a permanent member on the U.N. Security Council, could wield.
Villepin also aimed barbs at Washington and London on the rationale for military action.
"Some countries may think that with force in Iraq you are going to get the end of terrorism, the end of (weapons) proliferation in the world...and like by magic you are going to make peace in the Middle East," he said. "We don't agree."
In a high-profile speech last week, President Bush argued that toppling the Iraqi government would be a step toward Middle East peace.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Friday he was confident of winning support for a new resolution saying Iraq has not met disarmament obligations and must face the consequences.
London and Washington want a vote after chief weapons inspector Hans Blix reports to the U.N. Security Council next week.
But France, Russia, Germany and others are demanding more time for diplomacy and weapons inspections to work. A U.N. resolution requires nine votes from among the council's 15 members and no veto from any of the five permanent members -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China.
"The timetable of international diplomacy may be not the timetable of war. But you don't make war on a timetable," Villepin said.
President Jacques Chirac said on Saturday he remained against a second United Nations resolution, believing it would open the door to war and instability in the Middle East. But Paris has not so far said explicitly whether it will use its veto to block it.
The British government has dismissed Iraq's destruction of banned al-Samoud 2 missiles as typical of a dribble of belated concessions by President Saddam Hussein which mask the fact he still has huge stockpiles of lethal weapons.
"He plays a game of cat and mouse," British cabinet minister Peter Hain said on Sky TV on Sunday. "He makes a move when he is really under pressure ... and he will not voluntarily give up these weapons of mass destruction until we force him to do so."
Britain says the U.N., which unanimously passed Resolution 1441, must follow through or wreck the body's credibility. Resolution 1441 called for Iraq to disarm alleged weapons of mass destruction fully or face "serious consequences."
"You cannot say 'I want Saddam to disarm' and at the same time when he's disarming say 'they are not doing what they should'," Villepin said on Sunday.
"We have a chance through the inspections, peacefully to disarm Iraq. We must give inspections more time."
London and Washington have reserved the right to wage war without a fresh U.N. mandate in case it is blocked.
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