France says US pull-out must be on Iraqconference agenda

27th September 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Sept 27 (AFP) - Any international conference on the conflict in Iraq ought to discuss the question of whether the US-led forces should withdraw from the country, and should also include representatives of the armed opposition, French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said on Monday.

PARIS, Sept 27 (AFP) - Any international conference on the conflict in Iraq ought to discuss the question of whether the US-led forces should withdraw from the country, and should also include representatives of the armed opposition, French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said on Monday.  

Describing the situation in Iraq as a "black hole,"  Barnier, whose country opposed the US-led invasion, hinted that France could make discussion of the withdrawal of foreign forces a condition for agreeing to the conference.  

"It is an issue which should be on the agenda of such a conference, if we want it to take place," he told France Inter radio.  

US Secretary of State Colin Powell on Sunday suggested the holding of an international conference on the situation in Iraq. He also said that it could take place in October, which would put it just before the US presidential election.  

Barnier said that any conference should include "different communities and countries of the region as well as all (Iraqi) political groups, including those that have chosen the path of armed resistance."  

"The situation in Iraq is one of chaos with general insecurity even in the Green Zone" in Baghdad, containing the headquarters of the interim government and the US embassy, he said.  

"This chaos runs the risk of destabilising, of drawing in the whole region. I have compared it to a black hole. We have to get out of this black hole, this spiral of violence, and launch negotiations and the political process," the minister said.  

"We are in a process set out by a UN resolution (1546), and we must stick to it," Barnier said. The essential stages were "democratic elections ... a new constitution with a referendum, and then the question of the international forces will have to be asked," he said.  

Powell said the international conference could take place in a Middle East capital such as Cairo or Amman, and that it should be attended by the G8 group of industrialised nations as well as Iraq's neighbours including Iran and Syria.  

Barnier said that a conference should also take place within the framework of the United Nations. What was important was "not to know if it (the conference) will be held before of after elections" in Iraq scheduled for January, but "how to make it successful and useful."

 

© AFP

Subject: French News

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