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France denounces stepped up air campaign against Iraq

20 August 1999 - Agence France Presse

PARIS, Aug 20 (AFP) - France on Friday criticized intensification of air strikes by US and British planes against Iraq, saying the air campaign was "out of control."

"We can only reaffirm our unease over the direction the Anglo-American air campaign has taken, the aim of which we fail to perceive," deputy Foreign Ministry spokesman Francois Rivasseau said here.

Washington on Thursday admitted its warplanes had attacked Iraq outside the "no-fly" air exclusion zones for the first time since an allied bombing campaign last December, but said the action marked no change in policy.

France has repeatedly expressed its "unease" over the bombing campaign, and suspended its participation in patrols of the zones in northern and southern Iraq.

"Generally, France is preoccupied by a worsening of the situation in Iraq, of which the civilian population is the main victim," Rivasseau said.

"The regrettable persistance of tension does not favor re-establishment of global relations between Iraq and the United Nations," he added.

"This is what makes us uncomfortable," the spokesman said.

Relations between the UN and Baghdad took a turn for the worse last December after a UN disarmament commission charged with verifying Iraqi compliance with arms control resolutions left the country, and the bombing campaign began.

Baghdad called on the UN Thursday to put an end to attacks on civilian areas which it said have killed at least 23 people over the past week. Meanwhile, France has come up with propositions which aim to strike a compromise.

"The French propositions try to unblock the situation," the spokesman said. "We know what we're up against. They are not carved in stone." "We are trying to adapt our suggestions to see if there is any common ground on which we could advance towards a solution to the problem," he added.

Paris would like to see Iraqi disarmament recognised by the UN so an international oil embargo could be "lifted" or "suspended," with Iraqi oil earnings continuing to be strictly controlled. It supports a Russian-Chinese project calling for essentially the same thing, whereas Britain suggests raising the ceiling on Iraqi oil sales authorised under the "oil for food" program, an idea backed by the US.

A UN Security Council vote on either project appears fraught with risks, a French diplomat said, because while the British approach might get enough votes to pass, it would be vetoed by Russia or China, or both. Their proposal would not receive the majority of nine votes needed for approval, the diplomat estimated.

*** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. ***

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