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Chirac, Blair Hold Press Conference

Aired February 4, 2003 - 10:00   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take our audience overseas to Le Touquet, France. That is a resort, and as you see there, there is the French president, Jacques Chirac. He has been meeting with the British Prime Minister Tony Blair. This all in advance of Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation to the United Nations Security Council tomorrow.

JACQUES CHIRAC, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): ... to thank very warmly in his name and in my name, the French authorities, particularly the mayor of Le Touquet, which after all is a very symbolic town. It represents the friendship, the friendship between our two countries. And the various departement (ph) who are also present. And I'd also like to, of course, thank the inhabitants of Le Touquet, who received us with a great deal of kindness.

First of all, I'd like to say word to underline -- I mean we've both got a great deal of experience, a great deal of experience of bilateral meetings, multilateral meetings. And what I would like to do is I would just first of all like to underline the specifically positive and warm character of our meeting.

And the reason why I'm saying that is because there are a number of observers, be they journalists, be they cultural commentators, possibly were asking themselves questions about this particular area, but I have never observed such an Entant Cordiale (ph) as the one that reigns today, and that's just something I really wanted to say because I wanted to tell you the truth.

We, of course, talked about a number of matters. We, first of all, talked about international current affairs. Of course, we talked about Iraq, and our approach is not the same.

However, I would immediately like to underline one particular point. I've heard a number of comments being made, especially within political circles themselves. We both represent two old civilizations, ancient nations, ancient cultures, and for many centuries we have fought, but at the same time, we've been friendly with one another and over the length of time we have forged traditions and we have developed interests which were not necessarily always exactly the same.

And today, within the European framework to be sufficiently determined and to have sufficient imagination to try to scrub out the differences and to reinforce the areas upon which we converge. Of course, that's not something that's done with a magic wand from one day to another, and it's absolutely legitimate and it's absolutely natural that today we have encountered substantial progress. Substantial progress has been made as far as our cooperation is concerned.

And we, of course, are still aware that there are some differences. But what is important is to master those differences in a friendly fashion and not in an aggressive fashion. Of course, that's how we've got to deal with these things.

With regard to Iraq, our approach is different. But, first and foremost, we have two beliefs which are joint. First of all, we believe that Iraq has to be disarmed; and our second belief is that this particular action has got to take place within the Security Council of the United Nations, under the auspices of the Security Council, and that's something that's absolutely essential, and we are in total agreement on that particular point.

And of course, from then on, with regard to the actual reality of things, with regard to the conclusions that can be drawn, we may have some different approaches. However, they are less than they appear. And I will, of course, express France's opinion and the British prime minister will express his opinion.

We consider that things being the way they are today, what is essential is to allow the inspectors to carry out their work and to take into consideration any new elements that they could discover. For example, through statements, for example, that we await tomorrow from Secretary of State Colin Powell. And, of course, we also have to see what Mr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei will -- the conclusions that they'll draw when they express themselves at the Security Council on the 14th of February.

And we feel that as far as we're concerned everything has to be available so as to be able to give the inspectors everything they need in order to be able to get to the results, and the results have to be disarmament of Iraq. And we believe that it is possible to obtain that objective following that particular path.

We've talked about the Middle East. The prime minister has had some important meetings with the American president two or three days ago and, of course, they talked about the Middle East, and we simply also underlined that there we have a totally identical approach. We feel that it's absolutely essential for there to be a political process, which is the only thing that will allow us to improve the situation and which will possibly bring back peace.

And we've talked about Afghanistan and, once again, we agree that we have to be able to support or support as well as possible the Afghani authorities. In other words, Mr. Karzai, the prime minister. And there, once again, we totally agree with regard to Afghanistan.

And then we also talked about another particularly important matter, which, as far as I'm concerned, is something particularly important and of Tony Blair, the prime minister, as well, is the matter of Africa. And historically, in fact, our position was very different a few years ago. But now we have a total convergence of opinions.

And so, this shows you the progress that can be made and the development in Franco-British relations. We are totally in agreement with regards to the need to fight against misery, underdevelopment, to help Africa -- help Africa once again be able to take its own destiny in its hands.

And it's in that spirit that we both, in fact, support the NEPAD procedure and, in fact, at the last G-8 meeting at Kananaskis and at the next G-8 meeting that'll be the case at all, in the G-8 meeting in Evian. We, in Kananaskis, started a financial initiative which was joint aide to Africa and that now has become operational. And at the proposal of the British prime minister, we envisage a second initiative, which will be larger, to have a private-public partnership and to encourage investment in particularly important areas such as water.

And we believe that we will be able to set up this new initiative within the coming weeks and then we're going to be able to present it and I hope have it adopted at the Evian G-8 meeting.

We also talked about defense and security matters. That, once again, is an area where traditionally in the past there have been some important differences of opinion between France and the U.K. Of course, differences of opinion because they were based on a different history. But I'd like to remind you that it's in Semileu (ph) that we both decided to begin the procedure which allowed us to create a Europe with its own defense. And after Semileu (ph) we were able to convince, one after the other, the 13 other members of the European Union.

We then were able to get to a stage where now the European Union has a joint defense policy, and that joint defense policy is developing in an efficient fashion.

Of course, progress has to be made, and in a statement that we're going to distribute, or that you've already seen possibly, you'll see that in three particularly important areas that, in fact, were mentioned in the Semileu (ph) declaration, we have made great progress, areas which are very necessary, and we totally agree on operations in the Balkans. We have solved, in fact, also the relationship between the European Union and NATO.

And so, we now have total agreement on operations in the Balkans and we also agreed on the recognition of the principle of solidarity between the member states. In other words, solidarity in case of attack and, in other words, terrorist attacks, total solidarity.

And finally the creation of a European agency, arms agency, so that we can ensure that our equipment is more efficient at a military level.

From that point of view, I expressed to the prime minister that the French authorities are extremely satisfied with the decision of the British authorities with regards to the construction of the two British plane carriers, because after all, that is an agreement between BAE (ph) and Talesa(ph), and that agreement will allow one to establish or build these plane carriers. And of course Talesa (ph) plays an important role, because after all it represents a third of the -- all the markets.

And that again, that once again proves that cooperation as far as arms are concerned and as far as military matters are concerned, that's not something that we just say in vein, but it's something that is reality and that does take place every day.

And of course that opens up a new perspective as far as France is concerned, because we're talking about the construction of its second plane carrier. And we're going to carry out some other studies to see whether we could also be involved in a third unit.

And of course where that's interesting from an economic and financial point of view, if we build two rather than the one.

And we also talked about problems relating to European institutions. In other words, the convention chaired by Mr. Giscard d'Estaing (ph). And I am going to be very brief about that, because we really have the same approach. And we are almost in total agreement with regard to the reforms that have to be introduced, especially with regard to the European Council.

And we also talked about following the European Council meeting in Brussels, which, as you're well aware, will look at the Lisbon process; in other words, look at economic, social and environmental matters. And there once again we have noted that there was a great deal of convergence. And we certainly do want to be able to work together. And we want to be able to work together at that next meeting that will take place on the 20th and 21st of March.

Of course we have also talked about other matters which are interpreted differently by the U.K. and France. And I'm not -- but we didn't do so in the spirit of confrontation, but what we tried to do was to find solutions, which of course would mean that we would both have to possibly compromise. There we're talking about agriculture. Of course we do have very different visions. And we do not accept to be indefinitely condemned and look at each other as guards dogs as far as this area is concerned or to be confrontational.

So, what we want to do, we want to be able to find solutions that are acceptable for both parties. And of course we have both got to take a step towards each other. And so, that's how we have dealt with certain differences which are linked to agriculture. And we are trying to certainly resolve those.

And then of course we talked about bilateral matters. And we are very pleased that thanks to the determinations and thanks to the will, the desire to be able to succeed, the two home office ministers were able to overcome obstacles and were able to come to an agreement with regard to the closure of the Songatte (ph) Center. And we warmly thank our two home office ministers. And we also talked about difficult problem relating to meat embargo. But now that thorn, thank goodness, has been removed from our foot.

And we also signed some important framework agreements that we're going to give you regarding to security, police, maritime defense.

And especially, for the first time, what we have to underline, for countries which have this ancient culture and that are very keen on their culture and very attached to their education in particular, but we have signed an agreement with regard to education, and especially the teaching of languages. Because after all, we do want to be able to facilitate the teaching of French in the U.K. And that's a real, real difficulty, I mean, -- of course the other way around, it's also difficult.

It's a challenge. But at the same time we want to try to meet that challenge. And then of course we also talked about the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Entant Cordiale (ph)...

HARRIS: We are going to keep an ear open on this presentation here by the French President Jacques Chirac. What he is doing right now is not totally unexpected. We knew that he was having meetings with British Prime Minister Tony Blair concerning a number of different topics. There were a lot of different issues that these two countries are facing together.

The one that we cared the most about this morning, and the one we were listening most intently for was the matter of Iraq, as well as the presentation that U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is going to making to the U.N. Security Council tomorrow. Now, we know that Prime Minister Blair met with President Bush over the weekend -- last week, rather, and sort of got a briefing and basically they hashed out a few matters between the two of them, and then, from there, Prime Minister Blair was carrying a bit of a message from that meeting to the meetings with Jacques Chirac. Let's talk now -- actually now we understand that Tony Blair is now beginning his remarks. Before we continue with our other coverage, let's go back and listen in.

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: ... for what has been a summit with a tremendous spirit of cooperation and friendship.

And as the president said, of course, there are differences on certain issues, but I think what was remarkable was the degree to which we were able to come together around a whole set of common themes and undertakings that I think auger very well for the future.

The president was telling us in our council, the room that he and I had our meeting in was the marriage room actually of the town hall, and that by our table which we were having the meeting was a picture that commemorated the marriage, I think, of -- is it Louis XII and Mary, the daughter of Henry VIII of England; so there you are. What better blessing could you have on a bilateral summit than that?

And I would say that I think, without repeating all the things that the president has said to you, I think some of the progress we've made on some of the dossiers before us has been quite remarkable.

In the field of defense, it's, as you know, four years since Semileu (ph), and we had a difficult negotiation, frankly, to get the European Union and NATO in agreement together. But now that that has been resolved, I think this is the time to push that whole initiative forward. And we've agreed a number of things, as the president was indicating to you.

First, there is the actual launching of operations for European defense in Macedonia. And I welcome very much France's offer to lead the Macedonian operation.

Secondly, there was a very important and formal commitment by both countries to put the assets of each of our country at each other's disposal in the fight against terrorism, which I think is of enormous importance to all our citizens.

Thirdly, there was the development of a comprehensive approach to defense capability with the establishment of a new agency in order to make sure that we're matching the aspirations that we have in European defense with capability and efficient procurement.

Fourth, there was the concept of the rapid reaction capability and making sure that we have the ability to act quickly and deploy quickly in circumstances where we need to.

And lastly, as the president was indicating to you, in the field of defense, I think there is an important step forward that has been taken in defense procurement with the cooperation between British Aerospace and Tales (ph) in the construction of the new carriers. And I think that is an area, too, where there is much to hope for in the future.

And so, I think what was begun at Semileu (ph) has today received a significant push forward.

In respect of Afghanistan, again, without repeating what the president has said to you, we agreed on the objectives that we need to secure there. I spoke actually this morning to President Karzai of Afghanistan, and had a good conversation and agreed how important it is...

HARRIS: Once again, we shouldn't be too surprised to hear Tony Blair now giving his laundry list of the different items that the two leaders here have talked about in the last few hours there at Le Touquet in France.

While they're doing that -- we are still going to wait for Prime Minister Blair to begin his remarks, and perhaps as well President Chirac. They begin remarks about the situation with Iraq, and with what's going to happen in the Security Council tomorrow with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell going there tomorrow to make his presentation there.

Before they get to those remarks -- we'll have someone listening, and once they do begin those remarks, we'll go back to the live coverage. But in the meantime, we want to bring in Jamie Rubin, former deputy secretary of state, who joins us now once again from London.

Good to see you again, Jamie. Want to talk about what we may believe these two gentlemen may have been discussing in last few hours. When last we talked -- you and I -- we were talking when Prime Minister Blair was talking to President Bush. Mr. Blair then left those meetings, and then spent some time now talking to prime minister -- I am sorry, President Chirac, and what had been expected, and I believe you were saying this just last week, you were expecting that by now at least, France would be coming more -- or at least leaning toward getting on board with the U.S. effort. It doesn't sound like that's happening right now, Jamie.

JAMES RUBIN, FORMER DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I think what happened was Tony Blair went to Washington. He met with President Bush, and I think he only got what I would call lukewarm support for the idea of another resolution at the United Nations. The United States is supportive, but clearly not steaming ahead. So when Blair arrived to meet with Chirac, he didn't have the full commitment of the United States to that effort. The U.S. may still come around.

What Chirac said just now, and hopefully he'll say more shortly, is -- leaves the door open to cooperation with Britain and the United States in the use of militaries force if it comes to that. But he is still focused on the idea that if we give inspectors more time, if we give inspectors more power, that they can do their job. Well, I think Blair and the president have concluded that that is not likely to happen. And Chirac also suggested that he'll be watching very carefully, and his officials will be watching carefully Secretary Powell tomorrow, and that again, his mind is open as to these new facts, and whether they will change France's position.

HARRIS: So it's your belief then that if all President Bush were to do was to come out and say, OK, let us now try to push to get another resolution through the Security Council, at that moment, France would immediately be on board?

RUBIN: Hardly. This is going to be a long challenge. I guess what I'm saying is that Blair is caught in the middle. He is the man in the middle. On the one hand is President Bush, who is determined to act, who has given only lukewarm support for a second resolution. On the other hand, it is France who are making clear that it's the second resolution and U.N. action that is the sine qua non, the requirement for them. And so Blair is trying to straddle that difference, and it is possible that with additional evidence, with an additional report from Hans Blix that Iraq is not cooperating, Chirac is saying it's possible that we may have to take other steps, because he is saying that he's committed to disarmament, which is the same thing that Blair and Bush are saying, that we have to disarm them one way or the other.

HARRIS: Well, let's talk about evidence. You say with additional evidence that we've been hearing all along now, the State Department here saying that there is not going to be any smoking gun in this presentation tomorrow. However, we're starting to get bits and pieces of information about what we may end up seeing and hearing tomorrow, and some of what we are seeing and hearing is that there have been intercepted messages, intercepted conversations in which Iraqi officials are talking about or celebrating the fact that they have been able to deceive the inspectors. You don't think that that kind evidence, if it is presented by Secretary Powell tomorrow, is going to be convincing enough?

RUBIN: Well, we'll have to see what he exactly provides. I think the key for countries like France is not just the fact that Iraq didn't declare all its weapons of mass destruction...

HARRIS: Jamie -- sorry, Jamie. Hold that thought, hold that thought. The principals are now beginning their discussion about Iraq. Let's listen in to that.


BLAIR: ... of course we have. The presentation that will be made by Colin Powell tomorrow. We have then the report of Dr. Blix, the chief inspector, on the 14th of February. We will make our judgments then.

I want to conclude by saying one word about the Entent Cordial (ph). There will be a celebration of this, as you know, next year. There will be, of course, much that is symbolic in that celebration, but I think what we have achieved today is very clear evidence of substance.

HARRIS: All right. Sorry about that, Jamie and our audience as well. I think maybe we got a bit of a curve ball thrown at us right there by Prime Minister Blair. He only had about a sentence or two there to say about Iraq, and essentially saying that he's going to listen to the presentation tomorrow by Secretary of State Colin Powell, and then wait for the briefing by chief weapons inspector Hans Blix on the 14th of February.

All right, Jamie, back to you. What do you make of all this, and the fact that they're not really saying much about Iraq right now?

RUBIN: Well, it strikes me that there has not been a breakthrough. There wasn't a breakthrough in Washington in terms of a second resolution, there is not a breakthrough here for Blair in terms of getting France's agreement, but what there is, and I think it's quite interesting, that both leaders talked about this two-step process.

Step one, Powell's presentation to the Security Council, step two, Hans Blix's report to the Security Council. And so I think what Blair is trying to do is to lock France into the idea, Well, wait a minute, you say we have to give more time. Well, if Powell shows you and shows the French people that Iraq is consciously hiding what it has, and Blix comes back about a week later and tells you and the French people that Saddam Hussein has not cooperated in the disarmament of his country, that might make a difference. So I think what they're leaning towards now is a crescendo of all of this diplomacy on the February 14 report from Hans Blix.

HARRIS: All right. If -- to the French, then, evidence -- whether or not it is smoking gun evidence or not, that there is an act of deception program on the ground and happening every single day, even at this moment, right now in Iraq, if that kind of evidence is not enough for France to get on board, is it so little that France could consider here using a veto in the Security Council?

RUBIN: Well, this is the question. It is a good question. My guess, my best guess, is that if Secretary Powell can prove convincingly that Saddam Hussein is deceiving the inspectors, that communications are going in, OK, the inspectors are coming, grab the stuff and go out the back door, if the kind of presentation he makes tomorrow can show that, I think that will have an effect on France's position, and if that is followed up with Hans Blix saying nothing has changed since my last report, I'm not getting that kind of cooperation, I think France will be very, very hard-pressed to veto a resolution in a situation where the French, after all, are the country that has made the United Nations Security Council the primary agent of international security. It's the institution they hold dear. Iraq is thwarting it, and violating Security Council resolutions. So I think with a good presentation tomorrow, and no cooperation between now and the 14th of February, that France would be hard-pressed to veto such a resolution.

HARRIS: All right. Let me ask you one final question, Jamie. I apologize, because this just occurred to me after listening to your answer there. What, then, is there to lose for the president, President Bush, or Secretary Powell, to come up with their own recommendation for a resolution, one that removes any doubt about the use of force, one that comes right out and says that this deception is actual proof of a breach, and is actually actionable by act of force, or use of force by the U.S. or by the U.N. Security Council? It's clear that if another resolution is something that everybody wants, or many people there on the council want to see and want to have that process actually play out, what's to lose there for the U.S. to go ahead and pursue that?

RUBIN: I think it's a good point. There isn't much to lose, and there is a lot to gain. If the United States managed to get a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force, and we had to use force, that will mean that we will share the burden, share the risk, and share the potential retaliation that might come out of this war, and share the difficulties that come after Saddam Hussein is gone.

We have an enormous amount to gain, and I think the only thing we might lose is a couple of weeks time and effort, and what appears to be the case is that Bush is concerned -- the Bush administration, that this thing will drag out for many, many months like it did last fall, and they will lose their military window of opportunity.

But I think if they can play it smart, put pressure on Chirac, put pressure on the Russians, really force countries to address this question, using Hans Blix's own words to support them, they have a really good shot at it, and very little to lose, if it's only a couple of weeks delay.

HARRIS: We have got a lot to look out for in the next few hours.

Thanks, Jamie. Sure appreciate the insight, as usual. Take care. Jamie Rubin in London.

RUBIN: Thank you.

HARRIS: All right. Let's go to the White House right now. Dana Bash, White House correspondent, is checking in there. She has been listening there for any kind of signs of what we might be seeing and hearing tomorrow with this presentation being put together by Secretary of State Powell -- Dana, what's the word there this morning?

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Leon, it is obviously very notable to watch the diplomacy going out on all fronts, you have Tony Blair dealing with Jacques Chirac, and Jacques Chirac and the French will, of course, as you and Jamie were just talking about, be a key audience member for this presentation that Colin Powell will give tomorrow, a very key audience member.

The secretary is actually going to head up to New York later today to attempt to have some private meetings in advance of that presentation tomorrow, some private meetings with some of his counterparts at the Security Council. But the secretary -- it's interesting to note here, the process that's been going on in advance of this presentation, it has been more than a week of very, very intensive work, multi-agency work, led by the deputy national security adviser here at the White House, Stephen Hadley. He has been working with the State Department, the Defense Department, the CIA, the NSA, to try to figure out exactly what information they need to give to countries like France in order to prove the points that they say that Saddam Hussein does have weapons of mass destruction, and he is trying to elude the inspections, but at the same time they're trying to make sure that whatever is in the presentation that the secretary gives tomorrow, doesn't hurt any future intelligence operations, doesn't get anybody into serious trouble, doesn't endanger anybody, and also, doesn't hurt any intelligence in general. So that has been a very fine line that they've been walking here at the White House. But we do know, as you were talking about earlier, that the secretary will talk about some intercepts that he has -- that the United States has picked up, that they say will show that Iraq is trying to undermine the inspections process, some -- perhaps satellite photos, and will also talk about perhaps some interviews with the inspectors, who say that they are being thwarted by the Iraqis.

But the secretary is trying to play good politics here, Leon. You saw yesterday he wrote in the "Wall Street Journal" that there isn't going to be a smoking gun. That's intentional. They are trying to ramp down the expectations here in advance of this very, very important presentation tomorrow at the U.N.

HARRIS: Definitely. Well, Dana, President Bush is going to have a presentation of his own to make this afternoon. He's going to be in Houston, Texas, at that big memorial service for those who were lost on "Columbia." What's latest on President Bush's plans for that, and where is he right now?

BASH: He's in the air. He is on his way to his home state of Houston (sic), and you are right. While all of this is going on, he's taking a break, at least for a few hours today, to -- to pay homage to the seven astronauts. We're told that he is going to single them out to talk about the fact that they were incredible patriots, and incredibly important to the future of the country, and what they did, and he will also talk about the fact that the U.S. really needs to keep its commitment to space travel, to its space program. He will talk about all those things, and it is also worth noting that the president is on Air Force One right now, and he's with two very famous astronauts. He's with Neil Armstrong, who was the first man, of course, to walk on the moon, and he is with John Glenn and his wife. John Glenn is also, of course, a former senator from Ohio, but he was the first man to orbit the earth. So those two men are accompanying the president for what will be a very difficult speech for him to make.

Also, it's important to note that he will have some private time with the families of the seven astronauts. He did speak with them by speaker phone over the weekend on Saturday, just a few hours after the explosion, but this will be a chance for him to meet one on one, face to face to talk to the families, and give some consolation on behalf of him and on behalf of the country -- Leon.

HARRIS: Thanks, Dana. That's going to be quite a sight this afternoon.


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