Wednesday, October 12, 2005

French Ambassador says 'Invasion of Iraq is breeding terrorism'

PETER CAVE: Within 10 days of arriving in Australia, the new French Ambassador says the invasion of Iraq is to blame for breeding terrorism around the world.

His Excellency Francois Descoueyte stopped short of saying "I told you so," but he does say that France has been vindicated in opposing foreign intervention.

In his first English-language interview since arriving in Australia, he told Josie Taylor that democracy can't be achieved in Iraq while foreign troops remain there.

FRANCOIS DESCOUEYTE: In the case of Iraq I think we stick to our analysis, but it was not proper to attack Iraq without international authorisation by the UN. Frankly speaking, we would have liked to be wrong, and we would have liked promises that Iraq was going to be turned into a peaceful democracy quickly. We would like this to be true, but unfortunately we have been right. I say unfortunately because now you know, France is much closer to Iraq than say Australia or the US and we see now terrorism being rather bred than starved by this action.So we are worried and we are not at all… we don't brag that we were right. We are quite worried that we were right.

JOSIE TAYLOR: Do you now believe that western action in that country has increased the threat of terrorism around the world?

FRANCOIS DESCOUEYTE: What is clear now is that Iraq, as we said at the time, did not, was not, have a WMD problem. We know that the problem of weapons of mass destruction was much less advanced than thought by some experts, and we know also there was no link, however detestable the previous regime was, that there was no link that could be established with terrorism.So now there is clearly a link between Iraq, some Iraqi groups in Iraq and terrorism.

JOSIE TAYLOR: It would sound, though, from your comments that you believe the situation has in fact worsened in Iraq rather than improved?

FRANCOIS DESCOUEYTE: In terms of links with terrorism, that was your question. There is clearly now a link with terrorism which did not exist before, which was never demonstrated before and now which is well established. But what is important is that the international community works together to try to calm down the situation and to preserve peace and development in this region.

JOSIE TAYLOR: Does that mean a removal of troops, western troops?

FRANCOIS DESCOUEYTE: Er, I don't think it's possible to have any progress in democracy with foreign troops on your territory. I think this is the French experience.

JOSIE TAYLOR: Will you be lobbying the Australian Government at all to pull out of Iraq?

FRANCOIS DESCOUEYTE: No, we are not, we are not lobbying anybody to pull out, because now the risk of increasing violence is very high, and it's for each participant, each actor to judge for himself.Again, what is important is that there is some sort of rebuilding of the need for an international consensus to tackle this kind of situation.

PETER CAVE: The new French Ambassador to Australia, Francois Descoueyte. He was speaking to Josie Taylor in Melbourne

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