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France Making Iraq War More Likely, Says Britain - 2003-03-13

Britain has condemned France for blocking a British disarmament proposal for Iraq. British officials say the French are making a war more likely.

Anglo-French relations have taken a tumble over the crisis with Iraq.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw Thursday expressed astonishment that France had rejected the latest British proposal to set six disarmament tests for Iraq to meet in order to avoid a war.

"What I find extraordinary is that without even proper consideration, the French government have decided that they will reject these proposals adding to the statement that, quotes, 'Whatever the circumstances France will vote no,' " he said.

Mr. Straw spoke shortly after French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said the British plan would delay war only by a few days, instead of bringing about Iraq's peaceful disarmament.

The British Conservative Party opposition leader, Iain Duncan Smith, discussed the crisis Thursday with Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Afterward, Mr. Duncan Smith said the prime minister believes France is making a war against Iraq more likely, and the French government will have to bear that responsibility.

"I think almost anybody who would look at this and the attempt to try and find a way through must come to the conclusion that the French government in their absolute refusal to endorse anything or to countenance endorsing anything are acting unreasonably," he said. "And that has meant the likelihood of military action is therefore closer. And I say that this will cause a crisis clearly in the U.N. over the relationship with the Security Council and with this particular action, but as the prime minister said, it's over to those [it's the responsibility of those] who refuse to countenance any change."

Mr. Duncan Smith said that with military action apparently imminent, the thoughts and prayers of the British people should go out to the 30,000 British military personnel deployed around Iraq.