- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 24, 2003

The United States yesterday rejected a French proposal to lift U.N. sanctions against Iraq only temporarily, insisting that to continue punishing Iraqis now that Saddam Hussein is out of power serves no purpose.
"With the regime gone, the United States position is economic sanctions are no longer necessary," Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said. "They shouldn't be merely suspended, they should be out-and-out lifted."
France, which in March pressed other U.N. Security Council nations to reject a second resolution on Iraq, on Tuesday proposed the suspension of sanctions, with full removal contigent upon certification that Iraq does not possess mass destruction weapons.
The sanctions, begun after the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, include the oil-for-food program, which had been providing food for 60 percent of Iraq's 24 million people.
The new disagreement illustrates how Washington plans to exact what Secretary of State Colin L. Powell called the "consequences" of France's active campaign against the U.S. effort to win U.N. Security Council support for the war in Iraq.
Said Mr. Fleischer: "I think you're watching the consequences."
The two nations have had strained relations since France opposed the U.N. resolution, prompting informal embargoes by Americans and the renaming of "french toast" to "freedom toast" aboard Air Force One and a similar renaming of "french fries" in Congress.
"Relations between the United States and France have been strained over this very issue," Mr. Fleischer said. "That's a consequence that we have to deal with in terms of the bilateral relationship between the United States and France.
"The alliance will continue, of course, but it has put a strain on the relationship and that's a consequence that is paid," he said.
Some members of the administration are split over how to mete out the "consequences" to France. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Vice President Dick Cheney's office are urging an active punishment for Paris' stance at the United Nations and its opposition to using NATO to help defend Turkey during the war.
One senior administration official said the United States is considering reducing or eliminating France's role in several international organizations including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and may exclude French officials from U.S. talks with European allies.
"We clearly don't see eye to eye, so maybe we should part ways to some degree," the official said.
Mr. Powell yesterday told his French counterpart, Dominique de Villepin, that France's opposition to the war in Iraq will have negative and palpable "consequences," the State Department said.
"We have had some fairly strong disagreements lately and we need to also think about how to deal with those and what the implications might be in terms of the kind of cooperation we can have on these issues," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.
"Understand that we did have these disagreements, understand that they were serious and difficult and that that has consequences for the future," he told reporters. "There is obviously an effect on the relationship, on how we look at things, how we evaluate things and how we look at things we might want to do as we move forward."
According to the France 2 TV station, Mr. de Villepin described his phone discussion with Mr. Powell as "very cordial."
The French Foreign Ministry released a statement from Mr. de Villepin yesterday defending France's stance on the Iraq war and saying Paris' foreign policy would not change.
"France has reacted throughout the Iraqi crisis with a great majority of the international community, along with its convictions and its principles to defend international legality," the statement said. "It will continue to do so in all circumstances."
Still, Mr. Boucher said the new French offer to suspend sanctions is "a move in our view in the right direction."

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