Monday, September 17, 2007

French fighting words

In speaking of Iran's stubborn refusal to abandon research that could lead to the production of nuclear weapons, French leaders have been using quite martial language.

On 27 August 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy set the tone in his foreign affairs speech to a gathering of French ambassadors: "Iran equipped with nuclear weapons would be unacceptable." He stated that UN sanctions—such as Resolution 1737 of the Security Council, adopted on 23 December 2006—were the only means of avoiding a catastrophic choice "between the Iranian bomb and the bombing of Iran".

This morning, Bernard Kouchner, French minister of Foreign Affairs, declared that we must "get ready for the worst, where the worst means war".

This afternoon, François Fillon, French prime minister, said that Iran "must understand that the tension is extreme". Then he backed up Kouchner by affirming: "The world is faced with a real threat of the existence of an Iranian nuclear weapon."

Do these bellicose words from Sarkozy, Kouchner and Fillon mean that France is getting geared up to envisage an attack of Iran? Certainly not, because Sarkozy has made it clear that force is not the right solution to this problem. They are merely pointing out explicitly that an atmosphere of potential warfare will exist as long as the UN sanctions approach has not been strengthened. In any case, the situation will probably become clearer after the forthcoming Washington meeting between the six nations [China, France, Germany, Russia, UK, USA] that are examining the possibility of extending the existing sanctions.

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