French, Iranians add to chorus against war

09 January 2003
The groundswell of international opposition to war on Iraq is growing, as the French and Iranians added their voices to the public debate. Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, on a visit to Athens, told reporters that military action was unnecessary because Iraq was co-operating with the UN, and that given the impact any war would have on neighbouring countries, they ought to be consulted. While no country has suffered more from the regime of Saddam Hussein, Tehran fears a refugee crisis and the possible unrest that might be stirred up between Sunni and Shia muslims. Greece, which took over the EU's six-month rotating presidency on 1 January, plans to lead an EU delegation to the region to consult Arab leaders on avoiding war.

French President Jacques Chirac said on 7 January that war must be a last resort, and two opinion polls published on 9 January show that the French public take an even stronger line: a poll in local daily Le Figaro put opposition to any attack at 77 per cent, with 16 per cent in favour. Another survey in the daily Le Parisien showed 66 per cent against a unilateral US attack, while even if the UN authorised military action only 15 per cent would support the participation of French forces and 16 per cent thought the government should positively condemn it. In interviews on 6 and 8 January, UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw insisted that war was not inevitable, suggesting the odds were now 60-40 against, and that the weapons inspectors in Iraq should have no deadlines on their searches. A report in the UK's Guardian newspaper on 9 January claimed that up to 100 MPs could rebel against the government and ministers might resign if Prime Minister Tony Blair was to join an attack on Iraq without UN backing. Answering questions in Parliament on 8 January, Blair refused to be drawn on the question of whether Britain might be involved in US military action even if the UN inspections team found no evidence of banned weapons.

A MEED Subscription...

Subscribe or upgrade your current package to support your strategic planning with the MENA region’s best source of business information. Proceed to our online shop below to find out more about the features in each package.

Get Notifications