'THE FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER - ALAIN RICHARD - ON BUSH'S - AXIS OF EVIL REMARKS - 20 FEBRUARY 2002'
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French foreign minister outraged by 'axis of evil' speech
It is likely that France will support the Palestinian leader's call for the United Nations Security Council to intervene in the conflict in the Middle East. The French Government believes that the US has too closely aligned itself to Israel's leader, Ariel Sharon and they were reportedly horrified by US President George W Bush's 'axis of evil' speech
TONY JONES: Well, one country that will undoubtedly support Yasser Arafat's call for the UN Security Council to intervene in the Middle East conflict is France.
The French Government's made no secret of its belief that the US is making some serious mistakes in its foreign policy.
They believe Washington's aligned itself too clearly with Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
And senior French officials were reportedly horrified by President Bush's "axis of evil" speech.
Prime Minister Jospin and his foreign and defence ministers have offered scathing critiques of the idea that there is an 'axis of evil'.
As luck would have it, France's defence minister Alain Richard has been in Australia for talks with our Government and I recorded this interview just before he left the country.
Why was France so disturbed by President Bush's axis of evil speech?
ALAIN RICHARD, FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER: Because terrorism at large, with its different components and its different ways of action is a much more complex and in a way much more dangerous or concerning than choosing these three countries with their own threats or methods, but who are not a full expression of the real dangers to the world now.
TONY JONES: It was described by various French officials right up to the level of the PM as simplistic and unilateral in its conception?
ALAIN RICHARD: Simplistic in the way that Iran is certainly not at all the kind of danger or the kind of phenomenon that you can find either in North Korea or in Iraq for one basic reason -- neither in North Korea nor in Iraq is the power divided.
Whereas obviously in Iran it's divided and what's more interesting its division has changed with time in favour of the democrats and the reformists.
So what is the advantage of pointing the finger on these countries, with a large risk of helping the fundamentalists and the dangerous people and harming the democrats.
TONY JONES: President Bush's position on this, I suppose if he were here, to roughly set out what he was getting at, is that each of these three countries are illegally developing nuclear weapons, each of these three countries has connections with terrorist groups [TVOTW Insert - Has been shown by TVOTW and independent sources to be totally groundless and without substance and a total fabrication and lie by Bush and Blair.] and the great fear that the US has is that those nuclear weapons could pass from one of those countries to a terrorist group.
ALAIN RICHARD: Well, in my position, it's none of my business to give protected information.
What I can say is that some of the programs of these countries can be really serious.
It's not about nuclear weapons.
TONY JONES: You're more concerned about other weapons of mass destruction than nuclear weapons in the case of which other countries, though?
ALAIN RICHARD: I don't want to be more specific.
What I mean, and what we mean, is that if you want weapons of mass destruction to be marginalised and to be suppressed, you have to enforce international law and to enhance all the systems and regimes of mutual obligation and this is another issue with the US, which that since the change of administration, they have opposed very constantly all the binding, legally binding systems of arms control.
TONY JONES: Now, your PM, Jospin, is worried about US unilateralism.
He said, although this is translated into English, one cannot reduce the problems of the world to the single dimension of the fight against terrorism.
What is it he's worried about?
ALAIN RICHARD: Most of the aggressive or dangerous situations in the world are linked with unsettled regional confrontations or crisis.
And what we say is that some of the countries with whom we are actually faced could change our policies if we were able, the international community at large, to settle these regional quarrels.
The most obvious is the Middle East crisis, of course, and we advocate, not only we French, we Europeans, advocate, a new session, a new series of actions to promote dialogue and negotiation within the Middle East crisis.
And we would like our American friends to be more active on this effort, as Secretary Powell suggested just after the attacks in New York and Washington, saying it's all the more necessary to work and to fight for peace in the Middle East. [TVOTW Insert - The preceding link clearly demonstrates how the US and Israel have deliberately been sabotaging any attempt to settle the conflict with the Palestinians for years.]
And we fear we are afraid to see that ever since the strategy of PM Sharon has more and more been adopted, followed by the US.
TONY JONES: It's no secret that the French and many other European countries are quite disturbed by that.
What do you think will be the implications if the Americans continue, if you like, to put all their eggs in the one basket in the Middle East, to join to support Ariel Sharon?
ALAIN RICHARD: The main risk that after a destruction of any representation, any institutional representation of the people.
There will be no partner What's the next step?
If PM Sharon has in mind to actually dominate without any political concession, the Palestinian population, we think it's very unfair and it's practically impossible.
This means work length.
If his strategy is to rather demolish Arafat, and try and find new partners with less legitimacy, more divided between themselves, so that he can bargain something with the Palestinians at a lower cost, it may be understandable, but it's dangerous too, because the frustrations and the motives of a position will remain and the stabilising effect of a real agreement within the region won't be attained.
TONY JONES: Would it be fair to say, would it be a correct --
ALAIN RICHARD: By love for the Palestinian people, we are doing that because we think this conflict is harming millions of people in this region, is having very, very far-fetched consequences in the whole Arab and Muslim world and that it's in everyone's interest to find, which was nearly on the basis of the Oslo process.
TONY JONES: Would it be fair to say that one of your fears is that if the US continues its policy of supporting Ariel Sharon to the exclusion of the Palestinians, if the US continues with its notion of the axis of evil, that, in fact, more terrorism will be created?
ALAIN RICHARD: Well, instability can have different undesired consequences, not only terrorism, but our vision of this problem is that, of course, terrorism is not a proper expression of regional unsolved problems, but these problems do feed terrorism, because they crate hundreds then thousands, then hundreds of thousands of people both frustrated, bitter who pray for fanaticism.
TONY JONES: Are you worried the war against terrorism itself if defined if the way the President is seeking to define it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy?
ALAIN RICHARD: If you use too much domination and too little negotiation and real settlement of problems, which are really contradictory with international law, of course you are creating dangers.
TONY JONES: Is one of your fears that the US under President Bush is set agcourse too much on its own, is neglecting to consult its allies?
ALAIN RICHARD: Yeah.
There is a problem there.
And not only with the allies.
If you want to actually make a progress with a serious and complex international problem, you have to consult and then to discuss really, not only with your allies, but also with your opponents.
TONY JONES: The way the President Bush, though, has defined where this conflicts against terror may go through his axis of evil speeches, pointing at those three nations.
First on the list of those three is Iraq, it's reported that the US is preparing itself for another conflict with Iraq. [TVOTW Insert - Note the date - 20 Feb 2002. It's already common knowledge that Bush is going to attack Iraq.]
How dangerous would that be?
ALAIN RICHARD: If I was out of my responsibility and if I had to comment, the risk of a military action against Iraq, my first concern would be rather political.
Where other countries that could keep themselves from such an action.
The idea of a large, of a broad coalition uniting, a large number of democracies, to fight against terrorism, which has been an enormous success of what we had to do altogether after September, couldn't resist a military action against Iraq.
Apart from the questions you can have --
TONY JONES: That coalition wouldn't stay together in the face of such a military action?
ALAIN RICHARD: I'm sure of that.
TONY JONES: Do you think then the temptation would be for the US to act unilaterally as they appear to be doing anyway?
ALAIN RICHARD: I couldn't comment on that.
What I know is that a lot of good friends of the US, of strong and permanent allies, wouldn't advise them to do so.
But I'm also convinced that the choice of words for the President doesn't mean that they are preparing military action.
TONY JONES: But we do know that that kind of action is being urged inside the US Administration, that has been reported so widely --
ALAIN RICHARD: This has been suggested for 10 years.
TONY JONES: But in this case we have the President naming that country as an evil regime?
ALAIN RICHARD: It's not the first time either.
TONY JONES: Thank you very much for joining us tonight on Lateline.
TVOTW - ICOPO
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