Chirac doubts world is safer post-Saddam

17th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

LONDON, Nov 17 (AFP) - On the eve of an official visit to London, French President Jacques Chirac said he is "not at all sure" that the world has become safer since the downfall of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

LONDON, Nov 17 (AFP) - On the eve of an official visit to London, French President Jacques Chirac said he is "not at all sure" that the world has become safer since the downfall of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

In a BBC television interview, aired Wednesday evening, Chirac suggested that the situation in Iraq - where US forces are still locked in battle with insurgents - has helped to prompt an increase in terrorism.

"To a certain extent Saddam Hussein's departure was a positive thing," said Chirac when asked if the world was now a safer place, as US President George W. Bush has repeatedly stated.

"But it also provoked reactions, such as the mobilisation in a number of countries, of men and women of Islam, which has made the world more dangerous," he said.

"There's no doubt that there has been an increase in terrorism and one of the origins of that has been the situation in Iraq. I am not at all sure that one can say that the world is safer."

Excerpts of Chirac's interview with the "Newsnight" programme appeared prior to broadcast on the BBC website (www.bbc.co.uk/news).

Chirac, who led European opposition to the March 2003 invasion, arrives in London on Thursday for annual summit talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush's staunchest ally on Iraq.

The summit - which precedes Britain's turn at the helm of the Group of Eight and, in the second half of 2005, the European Union - will touch upon Iraq and the Middle East among other issues, officials say.

Hinting at what Chirac will tell Blair on the Middle East, French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said the United States must not to delay in pushing for a Palestinian state to be established "as soon as possible."

"I have heard President Bush say that it could come before the end of his mandate. I think we must not wait till 2009. After all the 'roadmap' foresees a Palestinian state by June 2005," he told the Figaro newspaper in Paris.

For his part, Blair's official spokesman said the prime minister would not paper over his differences with Chirac over Iraq.

"We openly acknowledge that there is a disagreement between us over Iraq, but that does not stop us being able to cooperate and work on many other issues," the spokesman told AFP.

Blair's spokesman added that relations between the two men were "as always, very good".

Chirac's visit came in for harsh criticism Wednesday in Britain's two most popular middle-brow newspapers, which questioned the red-carpet welcome being extended to the French leader.

"On the centenary of the Entente Cordiale, it should be a joy to welcome the president of France (but) Jacques Chirac has ensured that there is a sulphurous air to the occasion," columnist Simon Heffer wrote in the Daily Mail.

The Daily Express took exception at Queen Elizabeth II treating Chirac to a command performance of the hit musical "Les Miserables" - based on a Victor Hugo novel - at Windsor Castle, west of London, on Thursday night.

"Why are we treating arrogant Chirac like a king?" it demanded to know. Chirac, who last visited London a year ago, is to arrive in the capital - with six ministers and 40 French members of parliament in tow - on Thursday morning when he will inspect a guard of honour before meeting Blair.

Later he will give an address on French foreign policy, spend the night at Windsor Castle, then venture to Oxford on Friday to meet students at its famous university.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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