US 'tapped Chirac's phone'

6th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 6 (AFP) - A new book examining the antagonistic relationship between presidents Jacques Chirac and George W. Bush claims the United States bugged the French leader's phone to find out his moves in opposition to the Iraq war.

PARIS, Oct 6 (AFP) - A new book examining the antagonistic relationship between presidents Jacques Chirac and George W. Bush claims the United States bugged the French leader's phone to find out his moves in opposition to the Iraq war.  

American surveillance listened to what happened "in the privacy of the Elysee palace according to several French sources in the military and intelligence fields," claims the book, titled Chirac contre Bush: L'Autre Guerre (Chirac against Bush: The Other War).  

Released Wednesday, the work by French newspaper journalists Henri Vernet and Thomas Cantaloube said that an unidentified former senior French military official found out about the bugging during a Washington lunch with a Bush administration official.  

"The relationship between your president and ours is irreparable on the personal level. You have to understand that President Bush knows exactly what President Chirac thinks of him," the US official was reported as saying abruptly.  

The book added that the French official, who knew the American very well, understood the message immediately: "That the 'services' were 'listening in on' the private presidential telephone calls" by Chirac.  

Eavesdropping on him was made easy because the French leader regularly spoke on non-secure mobile telephones, the book said.  

It said such spying did not surprise French authorities, and backed reports saying that virtually every office in the UN headquarters in New York was bugged, forcing senior diplomats there to hold sensitive discussions in embassy glass "cages" that were regularly screened.  

The authors said the practice became widely known in the 1980s when the US representative to the UN at the time, Jeane Kirkpatrick, used sign language to inform the French head of the UN Security Council, Luc de la Barre de Nateuil, that US intelligence had bugged his office. Her unusual step could be explained by the fact that she did not always see eye-to-eye with her superiors.  

The revelation comes mid-way through the book as it analyses the deterioration in French-US relations caused by differences over Bush's push to war in Iraq.   It traces the early stiff yet cordial ties between Chirac and Bush, then brings into focus their gradual fraying.  

Chirac contributed to an early chill soon after Bush took office in January 2001 by constantly referring to Bush's father, whom he had got to know well when the latter was US president.  

During President Bush's first visit to Europe in June 2001, Chirac even telephoned Bush senior to say "I found your son impressive" after a well-received speech by the new US leader, who has taken pains to differentiate himself by sometimes being known just by his middle initial, W. - or "Dubya".  

"W. hates it when he is compared to his father," a source close to the White House who knew both Bushes was quoted as saying in the book.  

The September 11, 2001 attacks won French sympathy and military support in Afghanistan, but the two-centuries-old bond between Paris and Washington became unstuck when Bush forged on with the subsequent invasion of Iraq despite international opposition led by France, the book said, covering the major turning points.  

One moment, kept secret at the time, came when a French general, Jean-Patrick Gaviard, went to see US military officials in the Pentagon four months before the Iraq war started in April 2003 to say France could offer "a hundred aircraft, along with a land contingent of around 10,000 men" if Chirac so ordered, the book said.  

But that order never came, and instead Chirac threatened to use France's veto in the UN Security Council to scuttle the US moves, prompting Bush to order the war without an express UN mandate.  

The "other war" that developed then, separate from the Iraq conflict, was a diplomatic one, "a duel between France and the United States" that was manifested in the French-bashing in the United States and a chill that persists, the authors wrote.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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