French wooing of Iraq slated

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The Independent Online
France yesterday took the first steps towards re-establishing relations with Iraq, drawing criticism from Britain. The move may herald a broader thaw in western relations with Baghdad. Alain Juppe, the French Foreign Minister, received Tariq Aziz, his Iraqi counterpart in Paris, and France announced that it would open an interests section in the Romanian embassy in Baghdad.

Mr Juppe said afterwards that the meeting with Mr Aziz covered the implementation of UN resolutions in Iraq following the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, when most Western states cut relations.

France, a long-time ally of Iraq, has been pressing for UN sanctions to be eased, on the basis that Iraq has gone some way towards meeting the UN conditions. "Some progress has been made over the past months, more remains to be done," said Mr Juppe."A deadlocked situation does not benefit anyone," he added.

Britain yesterday attacked the French moves, saying that there had been no consultation. France informed Britain on Thursday of its intentions.

The cutting of diplomatic relations in 1990 was co-ordinated within the European Union, but there is no formal EU position and France has broken no rules, EU officials said.

However, Britain pointed out that as the state holding the EU presidency, France should set an example by co-ordinating its position. The US indicated that it had been consulted and did not object.

Britain opposes the easing of sanctions against Iraq, which is to be reviewed by the UN in January, March and April. It depends upon how far Iraq is seen to have complied with UN resolutions imposing disarmament and requiring a recognition of Kuwait's borders.

Iraq recognised Kuwait in December, but it was decided that sanctions would continue. The next review meeting is next week.

So far, Britain and US have resisted easing sanctions, while France and Russia have been more accommodating.

n Baghdad - President Saddam Hussein issued a defiant statement to the West in a televised address to Iraq commemorating its Army Day, Reuter reports. He claimed the US and its allies had failed to subdue Iraq through the war that followed its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.