Chirac evokes idea of nuclear response to 'terrorist' states

19th January 2006, Comments 0 comments

ILE LONGUE MILITARY BASE, France, Jan 19, 2006 (AFP) - President Jacques Chirac for the first time Thursday raised the threat of a nuclear strike on any state that launches "terrorist" attacks against France.

ILE LONGUE MILITARY BASE, France, Jan 19, 2006 (AFP) - President Jacques Chirac for the first time Thursday raised the threat of a nuclear strike on any state that launches "terrorist" attacks against France.

He also said France's doctrine of nuclear deterrence has been extended to protect the country's "strategic supplies", taken to mean oil.

"Leaders of any state that uses terrorist means against us, as well as any that may be envisaging — in one way or another — using weapons of mass destruction, must understand that they would be exposing themselves to a firm and appropriate response on our behalf," he said.

"That response could be conventional, it could also be of another nature," Chirac said in a clear reference to nuclear weapons during a visit to a French nuclear base in the northwestern region of Brittany.

The president said he was extending the definition of "vital interests" protected by France's nuclear umbrella to include allies and "strategic supplies".

The French press understood "strategic supplies" to include oil. Le Monde newspaper said that was aimed "probably also at those countries from which France imports part of its energy needs".

"If, theoretically, such interests were threatened by regional powers — Iran, North Korea? — France would react," the daily said.

The French president, however, did not single out any country in his speech.

He did indicate, though, that the previous Cold War stance of threatening massive and widespread destruction against enemies had been changed to a doctrine permitting a graduated and limited nuclear response.

"Faced with a regional power, our choice is not between doing nothing and annihilating it," Chirac said.

France has configured its nuclear arsenal to be able to respond "flexibly and reactively" to any threat, by reducing the number of nuclear heads on certain missiles on board its submarines, he said.

Such a move would enable it to conduct strikes on specific targets and limit the zone of destruction.

"It would be up to the president of the republic to evaluate the potential magnitude and consequences of unacceptable threats or blackmail against our interests," Chirac said. Such a situation could lead a French head of state to declare those "vital interests," he added.

He said "the fight against terrorism is obviously one of our priorities," but he added that "it is not because a new threat appears that it causes all the others to disappear.

"Our world is marked by the emergence of affirmations of power that rely on the possession of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons."

In an apparent reference to Iran, Chirac condemned "the temptation by certain countries to obtain nuclear capabilities in contravention of treaties."

Iran's government is pursuing a nuclear development programme, stoking fears among major powers that it will be used to make nuclear weapons.

France's opposition parties were split in their reaction to Chirac's statements.

The Socialist Party, through one-time prime minister Laurent Fabius, said there was nothing shocking about the position put forward.

But Helene Luc, a senator with the smaller Communist Party and member of a defence committee, said: "This extension of the concept of nuclear dissuasion takes us back years to the Cold War and can only deepen tensions with countries that aspire to have such weapons."

The comments also raised heckles in Germany, from both opposition and ruling coalition parties and the press, although there was no official comment from the coalition government led by Conservative Angela Merkel.

For the opposition, Green deputy Winfried Nachtwei said Chirac's comments were "totally adventurous" and "irresponsible".

"I fear that these comments will not help the international community achieve the highest level of solidarity," Andreas Schockenhoff, the deputy president of Merkel's parliamentary party, said in an interview with the Friday edition of the regional daily Koelner Stadtanzeiger.

The comments were also widely criticised in German newspapers' with editorialists saying they risked intensifying the nuclear standoff with Iran.

Chirac's comment's are "clearly counterproductive," the economic daily Handelsblatt said.

"Chirac's threat is not only unwise, but also counterproductive," the Westdeutsche Zeitung in Duesseldorf said. "Because it leads to believe that  diplomatic means are very limited in the face of nuclear ambitions."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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