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PRESS CONFERENCE BY PRIME MINISTER OF FRANCE

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

15 September 2005

Everyone knew the consequences of an international community that was not united, which was why this week’s gathering was so important –- there were elements of progress and good things were happening, France’s Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin, said at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon.

What was at stake at the World Summit was essential -– development, United Nations reform, and new threats, for which the international community must find new solutions in order to be more effective, he said. It had been France’s continuous position that the United Nations had to remain the best place for action and collective security, for which his country had several priorities. The first was the struggle against poverty and for development. The Millennium Development Goals were far from being achieved, although considerable efforts had been made.

He said his country, for example, had committed itself to provide 0.7 per cent of its gross domestic product for official development assistance (ODA) by 2012. Despite such efforts, however, achievement of the Goals required new financing instruments. One of France’s goals on the occasion of the Summit was to support such innovative financing, together with five other countries. Their initiatives in that regard had the support of some 66 countries, and that list would likely increase.

Specifically, President Jacques Chirac had proposed a levy on all airline tickets, starting in 2006, and he planned to organize a conference on that subject in February 2006. Five years’ tax on coach tickets and 20 years on business and first class tickets would free up 10 billion euros, which was a considerable amount of money in terms of ODA.

The second major priority was to defend human rights and good governance, he said. Towards that end, France supported the establishment of a Human Rights Council, which would strengthen the role of the United Nations in that field. Good governance and defence of freedoms had been at the core of the meeting held this morning with Heads of State and Government of the francophone countries. The struggle against terrorism had been the theme of yesterday’s Security Council meeting. Its resolution compelled States to fight against discord and incitement to hate. Now there was specific legislation against incitement to violence, anti-Semitism, and so forth. In that fight against terrorism, democracy was the first weapon, and everyone must remain loyal to it.

He stressed that implementation of those priorities required a strengthened and reformed United Nations. The essential challenge was to face up to the new threats -– proliferation, organized crime, terrorism, and the situation of failed States. He was pleased that agreement had been reached on a final declaration for the Summit. The discussions had been long and difficult, but the agreement constituted a full step forward by recognizing innovative financing, which was of particular interest to him, the creation of a Peacebuilding Commission and a Human Rights Council. Beyond those, efforts would continue with respect to Security Council reform, particularly to expand that body, as set forth by the “G-4”. The aim was to have a more representative and legitimate Security Council.

In that regard, he said that efforts should be redoubled to expand the Council by the end of the year. He also advocated a United Nations organization for development, and in terms of globalization, he was thinking about a body for economic governance. Those were his major priorities.

Asked whether United States President Bush’s statement of yesterday about combating terrorism and poverty was a new development, something lasting, he said that was not a novelty in American policy, but he had been gratified to hear that things were moving that way. It could hardly be denied that poverty and hunger fed the cycle of violence on the planet. In France, there was awareness that the best way to combat poverty and promote development was to work in a multilateral framework, in other words, with the United Nations.

Responding to a question about implementation of Security Council resolution 1559 (2004), specifically, the complete withdrawal of Syria’s military and police apparatus, the dismantling of Hezbollah, the demarcation of boundaries between Lebanon and Israel, and diplomatic relations between Syria and France, he said, “well, that’s everything -- the whole Lebanese question has been raised”.

Noting that the inquiry into Rafik Hariri’s assassination was under way in the context of that resolution, he said that that investigation had to run its course. So, he had nothing to say about an independent inquiry being handled by an independent commission, except his hope that it would be carried through to completion. It was important that all parties cooperate fully with the inquiry, and that the Syrian President’s declaration on cooperation be implemented. The Security Council would examine the final report and draw the necessary conclusions when the time came. France was prepared to ensure that the objectives of “1559” be achieved, and he was very interested in the upcoming October report.

What did he think about Senegalese President Wade’s proposal that Africa be given a seat right away, and with veto, pending overall Security Council reform? another correspondent asked. And what were his hopes for his meeting with Iran’s President this afternoon?

On Security Council reform, he said he supported the “G-4” proposal, as it was important to ensure the greatest possible representation on the Council, and Africa must find its place there. At the same time, he had to respect the general climate surrounding all the legitimate aspirations. It was up to the African countries and the “G-4” to talk to each other and see how they could be satisfied, and that would take place in the coming months. Everyone hoped for agreement by the end of the year.

Concerning Iran, as the correspondent knew, that country had decided to withdraw from the negotiations that had been under way for two years, he replied. It had resumed uranium processing activities, and it had not responded to the very ambitious and hopeful initiative of Germany, France and the United Kingdom for cooperation in the economic and political arenas, as well as in the energy field. The dialogue was taking place in the various European ministries, which wanted to pursue dialogue with Iran and wanted it, once again, to suspend those activities. There was still room for negotiation and dialogue. If that did not succeed, however, the matter should be referred to the Security Council. His position was “quite unambiguous”, he added.

He said he had not yet met with Argentina’s President, but when he did so, hopefully this afternoon, he hoped to raise the question of withdrawal of the Suez company from Argentina.

Further clarifying the proposal on an airline ticket tax, he explained that air transport had enjoyed continuous growth, including 5 per cent over the past year. Efforts by France in terms of ODA had not yielded sufficiently rapid results in light of the international commitments it had undertaken and the priority it wished to give to development. So, it had decided to find other means, such as innovative funding sources. President Chirac’s proposal was to levy air tickets with maybe five euros for an economy ticket and perhaps 20 for a business or first class ticket. The idea could “snowball” -– if France supported it, so might the United Kingdom, Chile and other countries. That was a way of opening a door, finding new possible financing sources. There was room for imagination and creativity. Present amounts were clearly not enough.

To a reference to reports this week in the Financial Times and The Washington Post that the Pentagon was seeking authority for the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons against nations where there was a suspicion of weapons of mass destruction or terrorist organizations, he said it was extremely difficult to comment on the basis of hypothetical decisions. He awaited further information.

Defending multilateralism was a constant struggle, he replied to another question. It had not escaped him that today’s difficult world was marked by a lot of insecurity, instability and fragility. A world which came together and supported legitimate institutions at the international level was a world moving towards more security and stability. Beyond what multilateralism could do, beyond what collective security could do, were commitments by States. In the case of Iraq, the commitment of all regional Powers gave currency to a French proposal to hold a regional conference in support of the democratic process in Iraq.

Concerning Côte d’Ivoire, he stressed the importance for the Security Council to stay with the process and see to it that the agreements were implemented. It was essential that the elections take place as quickly as possible and that all parties understood that that was in the interest of Côte d’Ivoire, he added.

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For information media • not an official record



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