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Chirac Urges Iraq to Disarm; Says Military Action Should be Last Resort - 2002-10-17

French President Jacques Chirac is in Lebanon to attend a summit of French-speaking states and regions that begins on Friday. Mr. Chirac took advantage of his early arrival to speak to Lebanon's parliament about Iraq and other issues.

Helicopters hovered overheard and Lebanese army troops blocked off main arteries, as workmen made final preparations for the ninth regular summit of French speaking countries.

It is the first summit of La Francophonie to take place on Arab soil, and the Lebanese government paid full honors to French President Chirac.

A Lebanese honor guard and military band greeted him as he arrived for meetings with Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al Hariri.

He was also invited to address parliament. Mr. Chirac used the occasion to reiterate his country's position on Iraq. "Iraqi disarmament is an undeniable imperative," he told the assembly. "All U.N. resolutions must be applied. We will not," the French president went on to say, "allow Iraq to flout its obligations and constitutes a menace for peace and stability."

But, Mr. Chirac said, "only collective action, within the framework of the U.N. will assure its legitimacy.... Military action," he added, "must be a last resort, and should not be inevitable."

Though he did not mention the United States by name, Mr. Chirac's remarks highlighted the differences between France and the United States over Iraq.

France wants the U.N. Security Council to approve a resolution demanding that Iraq grant U.N. weapons inspectors full access to all sites in Iraq.

Under the French plan, a second resolution could then authorize the use of force if Iraq did not cooperate fully with the inspectors.

The United States wants one resolution that would give Washington the right to attack Iraq if it fails to meet U.N. requirements.

Public opinion in Lebanon and other Arab countries has been generally sympathetic to Iraq and does not appear to support U.S. military action against Baghdad.

President Chirac also addressed the other burning issue in the Middle East, saying France was committed to seeking an "equitable" resolution of the Arab-Israeli crisis. He criticized Israeli policy toward the Palestinians, saying it humiliates and impoverishes them, nourishing hatred from generation to generation.