- The Washington Times - Friday, May 23, 2003

PARIS — France will not be quickly forgiven for its opposition to the war in Iraq despite its vote to lift U.N. sanctions, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said yesterday during a visit to Paris.

“It’s a step in the right direction of moving forward together,” Mr. Powell said of the vote in New York. “But does it mean that the disagreements of the past simply are totally forgotten? No — that was not a very pleasant time for any of us, and we have to work our way through it.”

The secretary, in Paris for a meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of Eight — the most-industrialized countries and Russia — is the highest-ranking Bush administration official to visit France since the bitter fights in the Security Council earlier this year.

Last month, he warned Paris of “consequences” for having obstructed Washington and London’s efforts to pass a resolution explicitly authorizing the use of force against Saddam Hussein.

Yesterday, he said “consequences” does not necessarily mean punishment. He told reporters at the French-American Press Club, “You take note of those who disagree with you and you try to find out why, and, if it is appropriate, to draw some conclusions. And consequences follow those conclusions.”

At the same time, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin — who engaged in direct and passionate debates with Mr. Powell at the United Nations before the war — said the United States and France still have fundamentally different worldviews.

“There are indeed two visions of the world, but we need to work together, above and beyond these visions,” Mr. de Villepin said.

Although he did not elaborate, it is a widely shared opinion in the world diplomatic community that France is seeking to balance American dominance in the world and to secure a more prominent role for itself in international affairs.

For that reason, Paris insists on involving the Security Council, where it has a veto-holding seat, in major international decisions. In a comment reflecting that position, Mr. de Villepin declared yesterday’s vote on the resolution a victory for the United Nations.

“The United Nations is back,” he told French radio. “After all, what is really at stake here is ensuring that the role of the United Nations is restored.”

For Mr. Powell, Resolution 1483 was all about helping the Iraqi people.

“It is a resolution that will bring back together the international community to help the liberated people of Iraq build a better society, a better country — to repair the infrastructure that was devastated not by war but by 30 years of dictatorial rule,” he said.

President Bush spoke from Air Force One yesterday with French President Jacques Chirac, whom Mr. Bush will see for the first time since the war at the G-8 summit in the French alpine town of Evian in two weeks.

Mr. Chirac’s call to Mr. Bush was his second since their rift over the war in Iraq, signaling a thaw in U.S.-Franco relations.

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said the leaders talked about the G-8 summit but did not discuss the Iraq war.

In a further sign of French efforts to repair the relationship, the ambassador to Washington, Jean-David Levitte, is in the middle of a charm offensive, with stops in Chicago, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Atlanta, Houston and Miami.

Mr. Powell and Mr. de Villepin shook hands during a brief encounter yesterday at the Intercontinental Hotel in Paris, where the ministerial meeting is being held. Last night, all participants gathered for a lavish dinner hosted by the French minister.

Although Mr. Powell cited “shared values and beliefs” with France that “keep us together,” he was unexpectedly harsh toward his hosts during his press conference.

“Let’s not pretend it didn’t happen,” he said of the rift over the war. “It happened, and there is still some tension over it.”

The secretary’s comments were markedly different from those he made last week in Russia and Germany, which joined France in opposing military action in Iraq.

In Moscow, he spoke of “the strength and the depth of our bilateral relationship” and “the difference of agreement we had with respect to the use of force and the second resolution that is now behind us.”

And in Berlin, the secretary thanked his “dear friend Joschka” Fischer, the foreign minister, “for your expression of support for the United States and for all the many expressions and speeches you’ve given over the years, which talk about the strength of our alliance and how we have been here for one another over the past 50 years.”

In a widely quoted but never clearly sourced remark, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice is said to have proposed a formula to break up the anti-American European axis: Punish France, ignore Germany and forgive Russia.

But former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright yesterday advocated an approach toward France that is as conciliatory as the one toward Russia.

“Both countries need to understand that our friendship and alliance are essential to our national interests,” she said of the United States and France in an e-mail from Washington.

“There is a word for ‘compromise’ in both languages,” said Mrs. Albright, who was admired by Paris for her almost impeccable French.

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