Chirac, Blair 'to cooperate' on Iraq

10th May 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 9 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac and visiting British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Sunday agreed to work together in the United Nations to ensure a smooth political transition in Iraq, officials said.

PARIS, May 9 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac and visiting British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Sunday agreed to work together in the United Nations to ensure a smooth political transition in Iraq, officials said.

During a working lunch with Blair, Chirac again "insisted on the need for a true break on June 30, and on a real transfer of power" to the Iraqi people from the US-led coalition, his spokeswoman Catherine Colonna told reporters.

Chirac and Blair "agreed, no matter what the difficulties or differences in approach, that the French and the British will work in good cooperation to contribute to the search for a solution" to the Iraq crisis, Colonna said.

The two leaders, along with French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, discussed "what should be included in a new UN Security Council resolution to help ensure that the process of a return to sovereignty unfolds smoothly."

Colonna said Chirac and Blair also discussed the situation on the ground in Iraq, especially the recent spike in violence, during their talks at the Elysee presidential palace.

UN special envoy to Iraq Lakhdar Brahimi reportedly intends to invite technocrats to form the interim government after the June 30 handover of sovereignty, with elections set for January.

The United States is hoping for a UN Security Council resolution to support the transfer of power from the coalition to an Iraqi government, but has balked at Brahimi's plan.

Earlier, during a question-and-answer session with 400 French and British students at the Elysee, Chirac said that it was "clear that today a very large majority of Iraqis have negative feelings about the forces of peace, which they consider to be forces of occupation."

"It is therefore very urgent to transfer, without any ambiguity, the reality of sovereignty and powers to a truly Iraqi authority recognized as such by the Iraqi people," Chirac told the students, invited to celebrate Europe Day.

For his part, Blair said he hoped the UN Security Council would reach an agreement to support the "proper and full transfer of sovereignty" in Iraq despite past differences in the body over the conflict.

"It is in the interest of everybody that Iraq stabilizes and becomes a prosperous and democratic country," the British prime minister added.

France opposed the war to oust Saddam Hussein, while Britain strongly supported it and has contributed thousands of troops to the US-led coalition forces in Iraq.

Amid speculation that Britain will send reinforcements to replace the 1,400 Spanish troops being withdrawn from Iraq, Blair would not be drawn out, saying simply in a joint interview with Raffarin on French news channel LCI that the issue was still under review.

Amid swirling allegations of prisoner abuse in Iraq, Chirac indirectly criticized US soldiers at the centre of the controversy, saying: "Every time you humiliate, in one way or another, you create aggressive reflexes"

"Respect for others is the key to development and peace in the world," he told the students at the Elysee.

As US President George W. Bush tries to contain international outrage over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at the hands of US troops, British troops have also found themselves at the center of torture allegations, in a blow to Blair.

Blair told LCI that all those found responsible for abusing Iraqi prisoners would be brought to justice, but said the contribution of thousands of British troops risking their lives in Iraq should not be forgotten.

© AFP

Subject: French news

 

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