France says US text on Iraq could permit strike


“We cannot accept an element of automatic resort to force,” a senior French official said on the sidelines of a European Union summit in Brussels.

“In the current resolution text there are some ambiguities, some key words which could allow an automatic resort to force. Both war and peace can be triggered by ambiguities.”

Washington, hoping to break a month-long deadlock, gave its four veto-wielding U.N. Security Council colleagues — Britain, China, France and Russia — its draft resolution earlier this week. The Security Council is expected to debate the text for the first time on Friday.

Russia and France have voiced reservations about the draft, saying its language could trigger military action before U.N. arms inspectors report on any Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

The U.S. draft, co-sponsored by Britain, would declare Iraq in “material breach” of past U.N. resolutions and warn Iraq of “serious consequences” if it thwarts new weapons inspections — language Russia and France fear could prompt military action.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin told reporters at the EU summit on Thursday that “a number of clarifications” were still needed for a consensus to be reached.

“France is continuing with the others to seek changes to the text,” the official said, mentioning China and Russia.

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