Letter from Jean-David Levitte, Ambassador of France to the US to the, Congressmen, Administration Officials and Media representatives
Washington, May 15, 2003
For more than two hundred years, the United States and France have been friends
and allies. But for several months, some members of the American media have
issued false accusations against France.
The most serious of these accusations share the following characteristics:
- They spread false information
- They all rely on information from "anonymous administration officials."
A list of some of these allegations is attached to this letter (click here) . I
would like to draw your attention to the troubling-indeed, unacceptable-nature
of this disinformation campaign aimed at sullying France's image and misleading
the public. The methods used by those propagating this disinformation have no
place in the relationship between friends and allies, who may disagree on
important issues but should not engage in denigration and lies.
Our friendship is a treasure. It must be protected. In this dangerous world, we
must continue to work side by side against the scourge of terrorism, the
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and for the promotion of peace and
our common values. Terrorism is the most important threat that we have to face
today, as the deadly and cowardly attacks in Saudi Arabia have once again
proven. We should not let bitterness between two staunch allies distract us from
the fight against terrorism. France is determined to continue to work with the
United States in a spirit of good will on all these issues.
In transmitting this information to you, I hope to help put an end to these
useless polemics. I hope that this information will be useful to you and I
remain at your disposal to discuss this issue in greater detail should you wish
to do so.
Embassy of France in the United States - May 15, 2003
1. September 1-15, 2002: In its "Week in Review" section, The New York Times
published an article entitled "Psst Can I Get a Bomb Trigger?" alleging that in
1998, France and Germany had supplied Iraq with high-precision switches used in
detonating nuclear weapons.
The Embassy issued a denial, which was published the following week in that
section's Letters to the Editor column, noting that a French company had indeed
received an order for 120 switches, presented as "spare parts" for medical
equipment but that the French authorities had immediately barred this sale and
alerted both Germany and the country that had previously sold the equipment that
incorporated the switches.
2. On November 5, 2002, the front page of The Washington Post carried a story
entitled "Four Nations Thought to Possess Smallpox." According to this article,
France, along with Russia, Iraq and North Korea, possesses prohibited human
smallpox strains. This "information" was purportedly given to the Washington
Post by an "American intelligence source," who mentioned the existence of a
"report" on this subject.
At the Embassy's request, the Post subsequently published a rebuttal from the
Embassy Press Office noting that France abides by WHO provisions and by its own
national regulations prohibiting the possession of human smallpox strains.
3. On March 7, 2003, Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz asserted that two
French companies had sold Iraq spare parts for airplanes and helicopters. The
article referred to "a U.S. intelligence source."
On March 8, the two companies named in the story formally denied these
allegations, as did the Embassy, which had already given a categorical reply to
the question put to it by the reporter. On March 10, the Foreign Ministry deputy
spokesperson reiterated the two companies' denial, adding that the French
authorities had never authorized the export or re-export of such spare parts and
strictly respected the arms embargo and Security Council resolutions. That
denial was published, which did not prevent the Washington Times from regularly
referring to this case.
4. On March 13, New York Times columnist William Safire began a series of
articles entitled "The French Connection" in which he claimed that France had
permitted the delivery of sensitive equipment to Iraq. According to him, a
French intermediary had facilitated Iraq's acquisition, through Syria, of
chemical components for long-range surface-to-surface missiles. Safire asserted
in the same article that "he had been told" that the Soci t Nationale des
Poudres et Explosifs had signed a contract in April 2002 to provide Iraq with
five tons of dimethyl hydrazine, a chemical that can be used for missile
The Foreign Ministry spokesman denied these allegations on March 14, noting that
it had neither delivered nor authorized the delivery of such products, either
directly or indirectly. In his interview with CNN/CBS, President Chirac
expressed himself most clearly on this subject. Although he no longer mentioned
the SNPE after that, Safire nevertheless continued his attacks in two successive
columns. Moreover, The New York Times never published the Embassy's rebuttal to
these charges nor took the trouble to answer the letter the French Ambassador
personally sent them on this subject.
5. On April 2 on MSNBC, Joe Scarborough accused France of selling Iraq "planes,
missiles, armored vehicles, radar equipment and spare parts for Iraqi fighter
planes," and of offering to sell nuclear reactors, without mentioning specific
Needless to say, France fully complies with the UN sanctions against Iraq,
including a ban of all weapons sales.
6. On April 21, Newsweek reported the "possible" discovery of Roland 2 missiles
by coalition forces in Iraq and implied that they had been manufactured in 2002.
A charred Roland 3 missile launcher was also allegedly found.
Once again, the Ministry spokesman had to specify that France had sold no
military equipment to Iraq since the summer of 1990 and that it was furthermore
impossible for Roland 2s to have been manufactured in 2002, given the fact that
they were not manufactured after 1993. This information had in fact been
communicated to the author of the article, who made very limited use of it.
7. On May 6, The Washington Times once again attacked our country, indicating
that according to an "anonymous American intelligence source," France had helped
wanted Iraqi leaders to escape to Europe by providing them with French
Although the author of that article did call the Embassy and included our denial
in his article, he nevertheless referred to this supposed "scandal" three times
in the following days. The fact that the Foreign Ministry's spokesman issued a
categorical denial did not dissuade the Washington Times.
8. Recently, as reported again by the Washington Times, other "intelligence
sources" accused France and Russia of seeking to sign oil contracts with Iraq
just before the start of the war. A "military expert" asked by MSNBC about the
coalition's failure to discover banned weapons insinuated that "weapons could
well have been discovered" and that they "could very well be French or Russian,"
which would have led the administration not to mention them "out of concern for
By Patrick SABATIER
La Liberation | Editorial
Friday 16 May 2003
Disinformation is part of every power's wartime arsenal. Certain American
leaders secrete "scoops" that may be quite empty to obliging journalists under
the seal of anonymity. A story of destabilizing a French government against
which they seem to have decided to wage a new (cold) war as punishment for the
effrontery of opposing the war in Iraq. This conflict has abundantly
demonstrated that the men in power in Washington don't hesitate to travesty
reality and manipulate the media to realize their own goals. Look at the
would-be "proofs" (crudely counterfeited) of uranium sales to Baghdad or the
files on the Iraqi arsenal plagiarized from old university papers, without
mentioning those never-established links between Saddam and Bin Laden or the (up
to now) undiscoverable arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.
But we are forced to recognize that the (dis)information which accuses France of
guilty relations with the former Iraqi regime would sow less doubt if, as Donald
Rumsfeld says, France had not had "close historic ties with Saddam Hussein". The
Pentagon boss forgets, very conveniently of course, that the United States also
had "historic ties" altogether as strong (and lucrative) with the fallen regime
of Baghdad. That takes away nothing from the painful truth: France, like the
United States, was complicit for too long with a terrible dictatorship and
closed her eyes on the gassed in Halabdja as on the charnel houses of Babylon.
France's anti-war stance lost in credibility as a result and she is still paying
The automatic anti-Americanism of numerous French people responds to the
infantile Franco-phobia of some Americans, including those officials who have
decided to treat France no longer as an ally, but rather as an adversary. Stupid
policy, since the transatlantic alliance, more vital than ever in this time of a
war against terrorism, has nothing to gain from this phony war. No more than
the future of the Iraqi people could profit from maneuvers that aim to reduce
the UN to the simple role of a registry office for American policy and to make
Iraq into an American protectorate.
Translation: TruthOut French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher