De Villepin: "There Must be an Iraqi Administration Legitimized by the UN"
by Francis Deron and Alain Frachon
Monday 12 May 2003
Interview with French Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin
The draft resolution submitted by the United States, Great Britain and Spain for the administration of Iraq in the months following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, is a starting position which must be improved, according to the Head of French diplomacy, Dominique de Villepin. In an interview with Le Monde, the Minister establishes three principles that should structure the discussion: that the Security Council go along with the establishment of a coalition occupation forces authority without abdicating its own responsibilities ; that international law be respected with regard to any immunities conferred on the occupying forces and in the management of oil resources; that a rigorous and reasonable timetable for political transition be detailed. This interview was read and edited by the Head of French diplomacy, Dominique de Villepin.
In the Iraqi affair France defended its principles-respect for the law, for the UN, etc.- but the war took place and the United Nations appears to have to play a marginal role in the peace What lessons should be drawn?
We have said it since the beginning: a great power can win the war alone, but constructing a peace requires everyone to mobilize. We must gauge the challenges that confront us and which cannot be limited to the Iraq crisis. Terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, regional crises. That s why, faced with these urgent issues, we wanted to exhaust all possibilities of a peaceful solution to the Iraq crisis.
For the long term, only by relying on these principles based on collective will and responsibility, can we hope to build a stable and just international order. Since the end of the blocs, the UN s role is more than ever irreplaceable.
Some think that America, given its power, is able to act more efficiently than an international community judged indecisive, even impotent. Our conviction is that the United Nations incarnates a universal conscience above and beyond nation states. Between impotence and unilateral preventive action, there is the way of collective responsibility and of the difficult construction of a world democracy.
Which brings us back to post-war Iraq as conceived by Washington ?
We clearly see two opposing opinions being expressed today: the hope Saddam Hussein s fall has given birth to, but also the great anxiety that always results from war, from its wake of suffering, of dramas, and of injustices. There were actually three visions of the war: the American vision, centered on their military engagement; the European vision, and, finally the Arab-Muslim world s vision where violent images stoked frustrations. Let us not underestimate the impact: war and peace are constructed first in hearts and minds. Let us not neglect the subterranean pathways of consciousness: a new world order is not built without the peoples adherence. The effort to construct the peace must bring us all together today: a new era has begun, notably since September 11, which calls for shared vigilance.
Is the draft American-Spanish-British resolution on Iraq a good foundation on which to construct the peace?
This text constitutes a starting position. From there must be given all the likelihood to succeed in Iraq, to reestablish security and assure political and economic reconstruction. There s still a long way to go.
The Anglo-American forces claim the status of occupying forces. This status, recognized in The Hague and Geneva Conventions, confers rights and duties: the forces in question must make the occupied country function without calling into question internal jurisprudence. In the present case, they demand this status, and desire, given the scale of the task, an international mandate with exceptional powers.
Faced with this demand, it is appropriate to demonstrate openness and good will: the Security Council must go along with the coalition s action, without, for all that, abdicating its own responsibilities. It must rely on its principles. The first is transparency and information: regular reports must be made to the Security Council, every three months, for example, so that it may better know and appreciate the situation on the ground. Would it not be appropriate, for example, to create a commission charged with illuminating the looting of the Baghdad museum?
In other words, the Head of the Occupation Authority, presently the American Paul Bremer, should have to report regularly to the UN?
Yes, in effect. But while the proposal plans naming a UN representative on the spot, there must be a mutual understanding of his exact mission and role. The present resolution seems both too vague and too timid on this point.
The second principle is submission to the rules of law. Beyond the general immunity accorded coalition forces, the present proposal includes the concept of allowing the occupation authority to escape all legal responsibility associated with oil exploitation. This could pose a problem and justifies close examination.
Finally, the third principle: this arrangement must be part of a rigorous and reasonable timetable, with the possibility of extensions submitted to Security Council vote. The Security Council should dispossess itself neither of its responsibilities nor of its prerogatives. A formula of automatic renewal, as foreseen at the end of the first year in the draft, is certainly not the most suitable.
These three principles constitute the framework of the coming discussion?
These principles must be applied in all areas.
Thus, sanctions are no longer justified after the war. We therefore proposed to suspend them. To lift them definitively, as the draft suggests, one must take into account the conditions that were stipulated in prior UN resolutions. That implies a progressive withdrawal of the Food for Oil arrangement and the conclusion of disarmament oversight operations; on this point there must be an international certification at the end of some to-be-specified cooperation between the inspectors and the forces on the ground.
Second range of priority?
The rigorous definition of the conditions of oil resource exploitation. In the country with the second largest oil reserves in the world, one can leave no room for suspicions. We must have precise rules, accepted by all, and a transparent mechanism that allows us to assure that the Iraqi people will not be dispossessed of their wealth. The Americans have taken a step in this direction. Rules for the disposition of oil receipts must be established and we must assure that management be placed under uncontested international control.
The most important question remains, the political process issue. A legitimate Iraqi administration must be put in place, even if it is provisional at first. Who can confer international legitimacy, if not the UN? The principles and political conditions must be clearly defined by the draft resolution so that the process becomes irreproachable. There must be a precise timetable, transparency, and no arbitrary appointments.
At the end of the initial securization phase, the United Nations must progressively assume responsibility for the political transition under the aegis of the Secretary General s representative, as was the case in Afghanistan, in Kosovo, or even in Bosnia.
The odds of a positive vote?
We are enlisted in concert with all our partners, American, and European, of course, but also Russian, Chinese, and all the members of the Security Council. There is a common awareness, a consciousness of difficulties, of the points on which we need to progress and advance. We enter into this stage in an open and constructive spirit. We shall make suggestions likely to allow us to reach rapid agreement.
You don t feel the Americans are going into this discussion with a take it or leave it attitude?
Everyone is aware of the importance of the stakes and the responsibilities. It s a question of constructing the peace and it s in everyone s interest, beginning with those involved on the ground, to create a perspective which enjoys wide international support, including that of the surrounding region.
By way of Iraq, the whole question of how the international community should handle crises is raised. We think we are stronger when we root ourselves in respect for principles, for rules, and when we act with a common will. In the same way, we think that a multipolar world based on cooperation rather than rivalry is better than a unipolar world at mobilizing the sum of everyone s energies and capacities.
You spoke of a common will. Do you also see it from the American side for the Middle East?
We are delighted with the recent American initiatives to restart the peace process in the Middle East. Today, with the new Palestinian Prime Minister and the publication of the Roadmap, we have an opportunity to seize. To advance in the Middle East, one must mobilize within the whole region. That implies that each go part way: on the Israeli side, a renunciation of the policy of colonization, a progressive withdrawal from the autonomous zones, and allowing the resumption of normal life in the territories; on the Palestinian side, a rejection of violence and the continuing pursuit of reform. Since the Roadmap has been adopted and published, the timetable must be maintained. Europe and the United States, like the other members of the Quartet (the USA, the EU, Russia, and the UN) have a particular responsibility to encourage the process and assure its follow-through. And let s not forget that peace should be global. The Syrian and Lebanese issues must be viewed from this perspective and specific roadmaps adopted.
I am delighted with Colin Powell s trip through the area. I have gone twice myself and will return to Israel and the territories before month-end. We need to quit the cycle of violence and misunderstanding, to silence the arguments about preconditions.
Are you thinking of Yassar Arafat whom the Israelis want out of the game? When you go to see the Palestinians, will you see everyone?
Absolutely. It s not a question of this or that personality. The moment is for unity. Let s not divide the Palestinians. There s a prime Minister, we re delighted. There s also an elected President. We have no reason to cut off contacts, given what Yassar Arafat represents today for the Palestinian people.
But beyond the political dynamics, let s not neglect the economic dimension. President Bush, in his recent speech, proposed a business initiative with the countries of the region. This is exactly the idea of the European-led action of ten years ago, then we put an ambitious partnership in place between the European Union and the twelve countries of the Mediterranean in 1995, based on a significant financial effort (13 billion Euros for 200-2006) and on the idea of a free trade zone from 2010. Let s mobilize for the economic development of the region, when we see that investments there represent only .5% of total world flows.
You say it s in no one s interest to settle accounts over Iraq. The American Secretary of State, Colin Powell, however, says that France must pay for opposing the United States
Colin Powell s views are much sought after. He is a man of dialogue and convictions with whom I am in permanent contact.
I see very well the polemics some would like to see engaged. All of that strikes me as baseless. Let s reject the double trap of Franco-phobia and Anti-Americanism. For my part, I have often been asked about the relations the administration and certain American companies may have had in the past with Saddam Hussein, including support of his program of weapons of mass destruction. I never allow myself to be drawn into this kind of argument. One cannot be governed by one s humors and still less by rumors.
In this context, what weight do you give the Franco-American relationship?
There are deep connections between France and the United States. I never forget that the desk I work on belonged to Vergennes Louis XVI s Foreign Affairs Minister- who signed the order for French troops to go and support American independence. No one forgets the American participation in the two World Wars.
Today we must build a real partnership between America and Europe on both sides of the Atlantic, one based on responsibility, respect, and equality. The United States has an interest in a strong Europe. We saw that with the institution of the Euro, which has also profited the American economy. We re convinced this is also true for defense matters. That implies that Europe take on its full share in the effort. This is the perspective from which the initiative taken by the four at the Brussels Summit end April must be understood.
September 11 created a trauma in the United States, the scope of which cannot be overemphasized, and in Europe, a keen solidarity. If we wish to progress towards a more stable and more just world, we must do it together.
There is no sense of rivalry. The duty of the leaders is to work for common solutions, and seek out the areas of understanding on which to build and go forward.