Former French PM warns Sarkozy on Iraq

Former prime minister Dominique de Villepin Monday warned President Nicolas Sarkozy that it would be a "monumental error" to back US President George W. Bush on Iraq.

Former French PM warns Sarkozy on Iraq
Former prime minister Dominique de Villepin Monday warned President Nicolas Sarkozy that it would be a "monumental error" to back US President George W. Bush on Iraq.

Villepin, who was former president Jacques Chirac's foreign minister during the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, said in an interview with Europe 1 radio that Sarkozy must keep "his eyes wide open" and "remain clear-headed" about Iraq's future.

"It would be a monumental error to lend backing, today, to the Bush administration on Iraq and on many other issues," warned Villepin, who served as prime minister from May 2004 to this year.

Foreign minister Bernard Kouchner took French foreign policy in a new direction, last month, when he paid a visit to Baghdad, offering to help stabilize the country and mediate between the warring communities.

It was the first visit by a senior French official since the US invasion that France fiercely opposed.

In a major foreign policy address last week, Sarkozy called for a clear timetable to be set for the pullout of foreign troops from Iraq, saying the withdrawal would allow the international community to take on a wider role there.

Sarkozy's address was widely seen as signaling a shift in France's foreign policy toward a more pro-American stance, in particular on Iran's nuclear program, which he described as the most serious crisis in the world today.

While Villepin said he was not opposed to Sarkozy's views, he added that "in the field of foreign policy, there are areas where we can do better."

He singled out a July address on Africa that Sarkozy delivered in Dakar, which was criticized after the French president said Africans had turned their backs on progress.

"I am critical of Nicolas Sarkozy's Africa policy," said Villepin, adding that France, under Chirac, had built a reputation as "the country that best understands Africa and loves it the most."

"Let's be careful not to send the wrong signals, based on interpretations that are eminently questionable," he said.

AFP
Last Mod: 04 Eylül 2007, 00:05
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