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France Defends Opposition to Iraq War

France Defends Opposition to Iraq War

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PARIS (AP) France on Wednesday defended its opposition to the Iraq war, despite a warning from Secretary of State Colin Powell that Paris could face consequences for its stance.

Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said France would continue to uphold its principles. "Throughout the Iraq crisis, France, along with a very large majority of the international community, acted in conformity with its convictions and its principles to defend international law," the Foreign Ministry quoted de Villepin as saying.

"It will continue to do so in all circumstances," said de Villepin, who was in Turkey and Jordan on Wednesday en route to Iran.

France was a top opponent of U.S. military action against Saddam Hussein and threatened to use its veto on the U.N. Security Council to stop any U.N. resolution authorizing war.

In an interview Tuesday on PBS, Powell said France would face consequences for opposing the United States.

"We have to look at all aspects of our relationship with France in light of this," Powell said on "The Charlie Rose Show." "We didn't believe that France was playing a helpful role. There's no secret about that."

Asked whether France would face consequences for its anti-war position, Powell said "yes," but did not elaborate.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, in answer to a question at a briefing Wednesday, appeared to play down any consequences.

"Relations ... have been strained over this very issue. That's a consequence that we have to deal with in terms of the bilateral relationship between the United States and France," he said.

Both Paris and Washington have tried to underscore that France and the United States are, above all, allies.

"In the end, the president continues to believe because of our common values between the United States people and the French people, and the government of France and the United States, the alliance will continue, of course," Fleischer said. "But it has put a strain on the relationship and that's a consequence that was paid."

De Villepin said, "We are friends, allies and our relationship is strong. We shouldn't speak about sanctions, but friendship."

Political analysts have said the rift between the United States and France, Germany and other European countries that opposed the war could lead to a stretch of icy relations.

French President Jacques Chirac has been working to mend frayed ties, speaking to President Bush last week for the first time in more than two months.

On Tuesday, France proposed immediately suspending United Nations sanctions that target Iraqi civilians, a move that falls short of the U.S. wish to totally lift sanctions. France also is pushing for a return of U.N. weapons inspectors to Iraq -- something the United States also opposes.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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