- The Washington Times - Friday, February 28, 2003

Warning to France
France risks damaging relations with the United States over its continued efforts to block U.S. efforts to force Saddam Hussein to disarm, the U.S. ambassador to France said yesterday.
Ambassador Howard Leach, in a front-page article in the newspaper Le Monde, warned, "In the Iraqi matter, we have come to an important point of decision, and France's answer may have repercussions for years to come."
Earlier this week, he told France's LCI television that a French veto of the latest U.N. Security Council resolution sponsored by the United States, Britain and Spain would be "an unfriendly act."
One European diplomat in Washington said Mr. Leach's words were "quite strong" in diplomatic language but added, "A French veto would be unfriendly."
In his Le Monde article, Mr. Leach noted Saddam's continuing defiance the United Nations and his lack of cooperation with U.N. arms inspections.
"As a means of disarmament, inspections alone cannot succeed," he said, referring to France's insistence that inspections be given more time. "How much longer would be long enough for the inspections to confirm the emptiness of Iraqi claims of cooperation?"
Mr. Leach argued that U.N. Resolution 1441 is unequivocal in its threat of "serious consequences," if Saddam failed to disclose his weapons of mass destruction.
"The words 'immediate' and 'immediately' appear three times in 1441 as a clear message of the Security Council's sense of timing. And, given the importance of the U.N. Security Council to French interests, isn't it important that 1441 be enforced by a unified international community?" he wrote.

The French defense
In Washington, French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte is defending France's military contribution to the Western alliance, pointing to troop deployments to Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan.
He also noted France's intervention in the civil war in Ivory Coast, an example of France's willingness to act unilaterally in its former Africa colonies.
"France is not shy about the use of force and has resorted to military means several times in the past decade," he said. "This it has done alongside the United States, both within the framework of NATO and outside of it."
As for its disagreement with the United States over Iraq, Mr. Levitte said France agrees with Washington on the need to disarm Saddam Hussein.
"France strongly believes that Iraq must be disarmed," he said. "But we also think this must be first attempted through peaceful means. France has never excluded any option, including the use of force. It should remain, however, the last option."

Last of the red socks
For British Ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer, his tour in Washington began with Iraq and ended with Iraq.
Mr. Meyer, who officially ends his term as ambassador at midnight, has been here for more than five years, making him the longest-serving British ambassador to the United States since 1939.
He arrived on Halloween in 1997 and the next day received a phone call from Thomas Pickering, who at the time was undersecretary of state for political affairs.
"'We've got to talk about Iraq,'" Mr. Meyer quoted Mr. Pickering as saying in the ambassador's first official phone call with a member of the Clinton administration.
Now Britain is Washington's closest ally in efforts to get the United Nations to enforce resolutions that demand the disarmament of Saddam Hussein.
Mr. Meyer and his wife, Lady Catherine, were popular figures in Washington social circles and on the public-policy circuit. Mrs. Meyer championed the cause of parents whose estranged spouses kidnapped their children.
Mr. Meyer also proudly promoted British cultural activities, especially for Scotland. The ambassador, who has Scottish ancestors, was popular among Americans of Scottish heritage for his promotion of National Tartan Day. To honor him in his last days, Robert Wallace, president of the Washington St. Andrew's Society, and John Bellasai, the vice president, presented him with a traditional drinking cup called a quaich.
Many of the ambassador's friends braved last night's snow warnings to join him in a final farewell reception. Mr. Meyer, of course, wore his trademark red socks, which he says are appropriate for all occasions.
With a wink and a nod, he told Embassy Row that he really has only one pair of red socks.

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