French President Jacques Chirac on Friday hailed a recent call by African leaders for a peaceful solution to the Iraqi crisis. Mr. Chirac's remarks came at the end of a French-African summit in Paris, aimed at forging new ties.
President Chirac said Thursday's statement by the African Union on Iraq fell completely in line with France's continued resistance to a possible war against Baghdad.
The matter has divided the United Nations Security Council, and some fear those divisions may render the U.N. obsolete. But Mr. Chirac, who has not ruled out vetoing a war resolution, is not one of them.
The French president told reporters that it was possible that a war against Iraq may be waged without the Security Council's blessing. But, he said, it would be impossible to re-establish peace in Iraq without the United Nations.
Mr. Chirac spoke at the end of a three-day Franco-African summit in Paris that gathered leaders and representatives from 52 African countries. Only Somalia, with no currently recognized government, was missing.
The French president announced that a new chapter in Franco-African relations had opened, marked by an equal partnership on matters ranging from development to fighting terrorism and crime.
Mr. Chirac also repeated calls for African countries to move faster in establishing true democracies and respecting human rights. He had previously warned African leaders that the days of achieving and keeping power through violence and intimidation were over.
Robert Menard, head of the French-based activist group Reporters Without Borders, asked Mr. Chirac to comment about reports that African leaders were sometimes implicated in the death, torture and disappearance of a number of African journalists.
Mr. Chirac acknowledged a problem existed. He said human rights abuses had been addressed at the Paris summit. He expressed confidence that African countries were slowly moving in the right direction.
For his part, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for more attention to be focused on fighting AIDS in Africa, particularly among women. "What is worse is, today, this disease is hitting women much harder than men, that 58 percent of those affected are women," he said. "AIDS today in Africa has a woman's face. If we are going to save Africa, we must save the African women."
The summit also focused on ways richer nations could help the continent. Mr. Chirac has called on wealthy countries to suspend subsidies on agricultural goods exported to Africa and to establish favorable trade terms for Africa's own exports.