France favours lifting Iraq sanctions, US warns of damaged relationship

23 April 2003
France on 22 April surprised many on the UN Security Council by calling for the lifting of UN sanctions against Iraq, echoing a call by US President George Bush several days earlier. 'The question is how to start the process of that will lead to the lifting of sanctions,' French ambassador Jean Marc de la Sabliere told the council. 'We have to start now.' He said that the move would open up the prospect of foreign investment in Iraq to begin reconstructing the country. However, Russia, fellow anti-war permanent member, was more cautious, insisting that verification that Iraq was free of weapons of mass destruction was necessary under UN resolutions. 'Full, final verification is necessary for the total lifting of sanctions,' said Russian ambassador Sergei Lavrov. De la Sabliere agreed, but said: 'Meanwhile, we could suspend the sanctions and adjust the oil-for-food [programme] with an idea of its phasing out.'

The shift in the French position appeared to have done little to appease Washington, as Secretary of State Colin Powell warned that the Franco-US relationship would suffer from Paris's staunch opposition to war. 'We will have to look at all aspects of our relationship with France in light of this,' Powell said in a televised interview. Questioned as to whether France would suffer through having disagreed with the US, Powell said 'yes,' without elaborating.

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