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CHOCO
Dec 3rd, 2002, 01:49 AM
France Warns Against Iraq War Without U.N. Backing

Dec. 2
PARIS (Reuters) - France warned Monday that any military strike against Iraq without backing from the United Nations Security Council risked angering neighboring Arab states and fanning terrorist action.

Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie told a meeting of the Western European Union that France thought only the United Nations Security Council could decide on any military action to disarm Iraq. France was instrumental in getting Washington to seek U.N. support and is a permanent Security Council member.

Tough statements from the United States have raised concern in Europe that Washington, which agreed to an Iraq resolution in the Security Council last month, might go ahead and strike Iraq without going back to the U.N. for a final debate.

"There cannot be any decisions, especially on military action, without United Nations intervention," Alliot-Marie said.

Any attack without U.N. backing "would go down badly in the Arab countries, with all the consequences one can imagine for the political stability of countries neighboring Iraq and for terrorism," she said.

"For us, only the Security Council and the United Nations are able to take some decisions," she said. Asked after her speech what France would contribute if there were a U.N.-backed invasion of Iraq, she said: "France can only take a decision on the basis of a U.N. mandate. That is a decision that has not yet been made."

France's priority right now was to ensure that arms inspectors were able to work freely in Iraq, she added.

Alliot-Marie stressed that U.S. intervention was not a foregone conclusion.

"That's not what they're saying. President (George W.) Bush has said that war is not inevitable."