France opposes quick strike

France opposes quick strike

By Joe Baker, Senior Editor

While President Bush and his associates are trumpeting that time is running out for Saddam Hussein to disarm and an attack is imminent, France stated there is no justification for an immediate assault.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin told a news conference at the UN: “Nothing justifies cutting off inspections to enter into war and uncertainty.”

The minister said arms inspections were proceeding satisfactorily and should be beefed up. “Already, we know for a fact that the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction programs have been largely blocked, even frozen,” de Villepin said. “Every day we are stronger from the information we are getting on the ground, so we must do everything possible to strengthen this process,” he added.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw parroted the Bush line that time is running out for Iraq. “There has to come a moment when our patience runs out,” he said, “and we are now near that point with Iraq.”

Iraq has offered greater cooperation with UN inspectors in a 10-point declaration that was signed with chief inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei.

Straw said he is unimpressed with the offer. “Iraq must stop this cat-and-mouse game. I am unimpressed with what they have done today, finding a few more shells, offering a bit more cooperation,” Straw told reporters.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell also held little regard for the Iraqi offer, terming it “just more of the same.” Powell said further: “Iraq has an obligation to provide to the inspectors all of the information that they need.”

DeVillepin countered that: “The crisis in Iraq is something of a test, and the stakes are enormous, if only because you cannot separate Iraq from other proliferation issues. If war is the only way to resolve this problem, we are going down a dead-end.”

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