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French Position on Iraq Remains Unchanged on Brink of War


French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin says France's position on Iraq is unchanged, and it will reject any new U.N. war resolution in the immediate future.

Mr. de Villepin told Europe-1 radio he believes the United States and its allies lack enough votes on the U.N. Security Council to pass a new resolution authorizing force against Iraq.

But the French foreign minister also suggested shortening the window for U.N. inspections to only a month, even as he acknowledged military action against Baghdad appeared a foregone conclusion.

Mr. de Villepin said a U.S.-imposed military calendar has taken precedence over a political one for the past few months. He said diplomacy and political pressure on Iraq is giving way to war.

Mr. de Villepin appeared to respond to remarks Sunday by President Bush in the Azores. Mr. Bush called fro France to make its position clear.

In a television interview on CNN, French President Jacques Chirac also reiterated his past threat that France may veto a possible war resolution at the U.N.

France has been particularly singled out for criticism by the United States and its allies, even though other Security Council members, including China and Russia, have expressed opposition to war on Iraq. Some French companies are worrying about possible American trade sanctions and other retaliatory measures.

But Mr. de Villepin again insisted France remained Washington's friend, and that France would be at its side to help, in the event of a chemical or biological crisis. He said he remained in regular contact with Secretary of State Colin Powell to explain the French position, but that Mr. Chirac and President Bush had not spoken in recent days.