French Face Consequences

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell adjusts his earphone during a press conference in Seoul Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2003. Powell announced Tuesday that the United States will donate 40,000 metric tons of food to North Korea and is prepared to contribute up to 60,000 additional metric tons later in the year.
The United States will review its relationship with France because of French efforts to block a war with Iraq, Secretary of State Colin Powell said in an interview Tuesday.

Powell indicated there would be consequences for defying the will of the United States.

The secretary made his comments to PBS' Charlie Rose on the same day France said it would support suspending sanctions on Iraq. President Bush has called for the sanctions to end entirely.

However, France — along with other opponents of the war, like Russia — wants United Nations inspectors returned to Iraq to verify that it is free of weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. has rejected their return.

The inspectors went into Iraq in November under Security Council resolution 1441, which France supported.

But in March, it was a dispute over whether the work of the inspectors should continue or end to make way for war that split France and the United States in their worst diplomatic breech in roughly 40 years.

While Russia, China and Germany also opposed immediate war, France made the most explicit threat to veto any second resolution authorizing force.

The U.S., Britain and Spain never mustered enough votes to pass the second resolution and never called for a vote. They blamed France for discouraging other Council members from supporting it.

"It was a very difficult period as we went through that second resolution vote," Powell told Rose. "And we didn't believe that France was playing a helpful role. There's no secret about that."

"But now it's over and we have to take a look at the relationship. We have to look at all aspects of our relationship with France in light of this," Powell said.

Asked if there were "consequences for standing up to the United States like that," Powell said, "Yes." He did not elaborate.

In response, Dominique de Villepin, speaking during a trip to Turkey, said France would remain true to its beliefs, even at the risk of acting against its longtime American ally.

"Throughout the Iraq crisis, France, along with a very large majority of the international community, acted in conformity with its convictions and its principles to defend international law," he said, according to a statement from France's Foreign Ministry.

Last week, French President Jacques Chirac spoke with President Bush for the first time in more than two months in an apparent effort to mend frayed relations between the two countries.

But another tussle is shaping up over whether U.N. inspectors should return to Iraq.

The United States doesn't want them back but the French, German and Russian ambassadors suggested Tuesday that compromising on inspections may get Washington something it wants even more — an end to U.N. sanctions that are holding back Iraq's reconstruction efforts.

Under council resolutions, sanctions imposed after Iraq invaded neighboring Kuwait in 1990 cannot be lifted until U.N. inspectors certify that Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons have been destroyed along with the long-range missiles to deliver them.

French Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere proposed several months of suspended sanctions, a step short of lifting sanctions, which Mr. Bush is seeking.

In the meantime, the French diplomat said the council could look for ways to combine the work of U.N. and U.S. inspectors "so that the Iraqi disarmament could be internationally verified."

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said he was willing to listen to the French ideas but that sanctions imposed on Saddam Hussein's regime no longer made sense.

The White House remained opposed to letting U.N. teams team back into Baghdad.

"The president is looking forward, not backward," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.

Fleischer expressed confidence in the U.S. search teams, each with about a dozen members from the CIA, Pentagon, FBI and other agencies.

The American teams have visited about 50 sites in Iraq so far and haven't found any banned weapons. The teams, whose numbers are expected to grow to nearly 1,000 people, have effectively replaced Hans Blix's inspections team.

Blix's inspectors, working in Iraq between November until mid-March, didn't find any evidence that Iraq still had weapons of mass destruction.

Blix was openly skeptical of U.S. intelligence that attempted to show otherwise. As a result, many administration officials blame Blix for their failure to win council support for the war.

Both France and Russia signed lucrative contracts with Iraq under the oil-for-food program, which will lapse if sanctions end. Both countries have made no secret of their interest in participating in Iraq's reconstruction.