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France Willing to Train Iraq's Police, Military, says Defense Minister - 2004-01-16


French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie says her government is willing to help train Iraq's police and military but rules out sending French troops there. The French official made her remarks Friday in Washington, where she is seeking to smooth relations that soured over France's opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Defense Minister Alliot-Marie says it is out of the question to send French troops to Iraq. But she adds that it is in nobody's interest that the intervention in Iraq fails.

"Therefore France is standing ready to be involved in the reconstruction in Iraq as soon as Iraqi people have regained their sovereignty," she said.

Ms. Alliot Marie told a conference at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington that France would be available to help train Iraq's future military and police forces, similar to what France and Germany are doing in Afghanistan.

A leading French newspaper reports that President Jacques Chirac is also said to be considering the deployment of a military contingent after Iraq regains its sovereignty if it were within the context of a United Nations mandate to NATO.

Ms. Alliot-Marie, a close political ally of President Chirac, talks frankly about the need to repair French-U.S. relations, which soured over French opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

"France definitely does not seek systematically to counter the U.S. in the world or to diminish its influence," said Michele Alliot-Marie. "We simply want to promote our vision of things as we respect that of others. So let us discuss how to make the most of today's globalized world while preserving the earth's diversity, which is an asset to all."

Ms. Alliot-Marie says it is time to reinvent the transatlantic partnership.

"To renew the transatlantic relationship we have to put behind us the divisions that were expressed in 2003," she continued. "There needs to be a clean slate and a fresh start from two shared ambitions."

Addressing another U.S. concern, she stresses that Europe's defense ambitions are aimed at strengthening, not weakening the NATO alliance.

While officials on both sides of the Atlantic say relations are warming, France and Germany were irritated by the Bush administration's decision to exclude those who did not join the U.S.-led war in Iraq from commercial contracts in its reconstruction program.

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