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Francophone Nations Condemn Terror, Support France on Iraq - 2002-10-20

Leaders and delegates from 55 countries attending the ninth Francophone meeting in Beirut managed to agree on a final declaration despite serious differences over several key issues.

Most of the important political discussions leading up to the final session of the Francophone meeting took place behind closed doors, away from public scrutiny.

Friction over several key issues, including the definition of terrorism, and what position to take regarding the recent rebellion in Ivory Coast were reported to have provoked some heated debates.

But despite major differences, member countries appeared to agree on two common denominators for the final declaration: condemning all forms of terrorism and supporting France's demand for two distinct resolutions concerning Iraq.

French President Jacques Chirac summed up the French position on Iraq, as adopted by the summit.

Mr. Chirac says the first U.N. resolution must require the Iraqi leadership to do whatever inspectors believe necessary to conduct thorough inspections, and then a second security council resolution must decide if Iraq has met its obligations.

The United States has called for the immediate use of force if Iraq is judged to have impeded weapons inspections.

The Francophone meeting's final declaration also endorsed the Arab League peace initiative proposed during a Beirut summit last March. That initiative urged normal relations between Arab countries and Israel, in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories and recognition of a Palestinian state.

Former Senegalese President Abdou Diouf was elected as the new Secretary General of the Francophone organization, succeeding former U.N. Secretary General Butros Butros Ghali. The next Francophone meeting will be held in Burkina Faso in 2004.