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French President Sharply Criticizes US in UN Speech

French President Jacques Chirac used his speech to the U.N. General Assembly to deliver a blistering attack on U.S. actions in Iraq.

In an impassioned speech, the French leader said the U.S. decision to oust Saddam Hussein had put the United Nations through one of the most severe crises in its history. Speaking to the General Assembly, Mr. Chirac said the Security Council should be the decision-maker on the use of force.

"No one can claim the right to use force unilaterally or preventively," said Mr. Chirac. "Conversely, in the face of mounting threats, states must be assured that the council has the appropriate means of evaluation and collective action, and that it has the will to act."

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan made the same point in his opening speech to the assembly, saying it is time to denounce unilateralism. Mr. Annan called the logic used to justify the U.S. decision to act unilaterally in Iraq "a fundamental challenge to the principles on which the United Nations was founded."

President Chirac, in his speech, said the world body must oversee the transition to the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi people.

"It is up to the United Nations to lend its legitimacy to the process, and it is also up to the United Nations to assist with the gradual transfer of administrative and economic responsibility to the Iraqi institutions according to a realistic timetable," he said.

Mr. Chirac repeated France's insistence that a U.N. mandate is necessary for the international force in Iraq. But he qualified that by saying the force should be led by the United States, which will supply the bulk of the troops.

In his speech moments before, President Bush strongly defended the decision to act in Iraq. He pointed out that as a result, Iraq is a free country today. He noted that some countries had disagreed, but issued a call to move beyond those disagreements and build on what he called the unity on fundamental U.N. principles.