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Bush, Chirac Stress Areas of Agreement - 2004-06-05

President Bush and French President Jacques Chirac say they now share the same convictions over the future of Iraq. The French president lead opposition to the U.S. invasion to topple Saddam Hussein.

Both presidents say they expect agreement soon on a U.N. resolution backing Iraq's new transitional government.

President Bush says the country's new Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi has sent a letter to U.N. members setting out the parameters of their relationship with coalition forces.

That's meant to address some concerns within the Security Council about how much sovereignty that government will have with more than 130,000 U.S. troops remaining in the country after the June 30 handover of power.

President Bush says that government will have full sovereignty and it is up to the international community to make sure that happens.

"The Iraqi people want and deserve freedom, peace, and prosperity, and the nations of the world have a responsibility to help them achieve that," he said.

President Chirac says he and President Bush agree the resolution must say loud and clear that the U.N. is determined to return sovereignty to the Iraqi people because, Mr. Chirac says, there is no alternative to restoring peace and development.

But the French leader says there is much work to be done as the situation in Iraq is extremely precarious. Speaking through a translator, President Chirac said the international community must not send any negative signals to the Iraqi people about undermining their sovereignty because he says that would undermine their confidence.

"In my view, what is important here are not the technicalities of all of this," he said. "What is important is to ensure that the Iraqi people, that the Iraqis truly have the sense that they have recovered their independence, their sovereignty, and that they hold their own destiny in their hands. I think that is the only way forward if we want to solve the considerable problems that are arising in this country."

While both leaders say they are of the same mind about Iraq's future, they still disagree about the U.S. decision to go to war. Unlike President Bush, President Chirac says he never concluded that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. While the French leader says it is good that the Iraqi dictator is no longer in power, he says Saddam's ouster has led to what he calls a degree of chaos.

Both presidents sought to put those differences behind them by stressing issues on which France and the United States are working together, including Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, and Iran.

On Iraq, President Bush was asked about the abuse of Iraqi prisoners in U.S. custody and whether that torture put him in the same league as Saddam Hussein.

The American leader again said those responsible for the abuse will be brought to justice.

"I was humiliated as was most of my country. Those soldiers didn't reflect the character of the American people," he said. "They stained our honor, and the world will see a full investigation of that humiliation which will stand in stark contrast to what takes place in states run by tyrants."

While Mr. Bush's relations with the French president appear to have improved, many of the French people still oppose the U.S. occupation. Thousands of protesters marched peacefully through Paris calling for the withdrawal of coalition troops and the restoration of full sovereignty for the Iraqi people.

President Bush and President Chirac met ahead of Sunday's ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the D-Day invasion which began French liberation from Nazi rule during the Second World War.