March 22, 2003
BRUSSELS -- Refusing to back down from his opposition to the United States and Britain, French President Jacques Chirac threatened Friday to veto any U.N. resolution letting them run Iraq after the war.
Chirac, furious at having failed to avert war to topple Saddam Hussein, said allowing Washington and London to oversee the creation of a new Iraqi government would reward them for starting a war that flouted world opinion.
He said France would veto any attempt in the United Nations to "legitimize the military intervention" and "give the belligerents the powers to administer Iraq."
"That would justify the war after the event," he said.
In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell brushed off the French threat.
"We're going to put in place a better life for the people of Iraq, a representative form of government," Powell said.
Chirac's blunt comments indicated the rift in the West could worsen. France and Germany waged a sustained diplomatic campaign on the U.N. Security Council to avert military action, creating a crisis in trans-Atlantic and European Union relations.
The war badly split the EU as Spain, Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands and Portugal backed Britain's pro-American stance, while others in the 15-nation bloc lined up with France and Germany.
Chirac's warning came after British Prime Minister Tony Blair urged other EU nations to support future moves at the United Nations to forge a post-Saddam "civil authority in Iraq."
Blair was not explicit on what he foresaw, but he has said he wants U.N. support for rebuilding Iraq's government.
Britain was dismayed by Chirac's threat, British officials in London said. While there was room for disagreement, France and Germany also should support allied nations at a critical time, they said.
The leaders met at a previously scheduled summit to discuss economic issues, but Iraq dominated the talks, which diplomats said were often tense and angry.
"It was impossible to abridge" the disagreements on Iraq, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said.
The EU nations agreed on the urgent need to prepare humanitarian aid and support the creation of a representative government in Iraq after the war.
But there was disagreement over whether the EU should help fund the reconstruction of Iraq. Blair said the EU must help repair the ravages of Saddam's rule, but France and Germany argued Iraq should use its vast oil reserves to foot the bill.
There were efforts to repair some of the diplomatic damage. Blair and Chirac shook hands at the summit and met on its margins to discuss ways to improve tattered relations.