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2005-02-23 11:44:00
Embassy Paris
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 PARIS 001139


E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/03/2015
JANUARY 31, 2005


C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 PARIS 001139


E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/03/2015
JANUARY 31, 2005


1. (C) Summary: During their January 31st stop in Paris, Senators Smith, Biden, Leahy, Chambliss, Shelby and Hatch discussed the status of the bilateral relationship, Iraq, Iran proliferation, Afghanistan, the EU´s arms embargo on China, and anti-Semitism in France in separate meetings with French President Chirac, Interior Minister Dominque de Villepin, Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, UMP Party President Nicholas Sarkozy, and a group of local Jewish leaders. As explained by Chirac, France is looking forward to the President´s visit to Europe as an opportunity to strengthen transatlantic ties. France and the U.S. share common values and experiences, which argues for closer ties in order to deal with global problems and regional issues. The French confirmed their ongoing commitment to fighting terrorism, the common EU approach to dealing with Iran´s nuclear acquisition program, as well as their willingness to help Iraqis and Afghans. Chirac reiterated French redlines against sending personnel into Iraq, but noted the French offer to provide gendarme training outside Iraq for up to 1500 Iraqis. The French are hopeful that recent middle-east developments will help facilitate a closer relationship between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Local Jewish community leaders acknowledged French Government efforts to combat anti-semitism, but said that France could do more. UMP President Sarkozy took the opportunity to affirm his warm friendship towards the United States. Senators Smith and Hatch extended an invitation to Sarkozy to attend a conference on civil society themes in Provo, Utah in October 2005 End summary.

Bilateral Relations

2. (C) Welcoming the Senators on January 31, Chirac said that U.S.-French relations were better than they were often portrayed in the press. He was looking forward to his phone call with President Bush later that day; to welcoming Secretary Rice on February 8; and to his dinner with the President in Brussels on February 21. He cited as areas of excellent relations the fight against terrorism, and efforts to combat drug trafficking and the proliferation of WMD. Continuing, he said that France had no difficulty with the U.S. as evidenced by "perfect" cooperation in Afghanistan, the Balkans (particularly Kosovo), Haiti and Africa.

3. (C) Responding to Senator Leahy´s question on his objectives for his meeting with President Bush, Chirac joked that he might want to persuade the President on one issue or another, but that he was a realist. The basic objective, he said, was to maintain and strengthen the considerable mutual regard and friendship. While the U.S. and France would not agree on all subjects (and would say so), the basic issue was to create a climate of confidence and mutual consideration. The twenty-first century, Chirac said, would see the world evolve into multiple poles of power. Only two of those poles, he continued, shared the same origins and values. While the U.S. and Europe would sometimes annoy each other, this shared experience, he said, made it essential, and more important than ever to strengthen transatlantic ties and in particular the ties between the U.S and France. Thus, he concluded, his relationship with the President was essential and he hoped that there could be daily contact to manage crises and to psychologically reinforce the U.S./French relationship.


4. (C) On Iraq, Chirac said that he was happy with the result of the elections. France, he claimed, was not surprised to see that the elections had been positive, and well organized. The elections, he said, marked a failure for terrorist groups and, while they did not solve all of Iraq´s problems, they were encouraging for the future. Chirac also allowed that the elections were a victory for the U.S. Responding to Senator Smith´s query about French involvement as part of the internationalization of efforts to help Iraq, Chirac said that the elections would accelerate the process of Iraq´s reintegration into the international community of democracies. On internationalization, Chirac said that the UN should have its "necessary" role. It was important to convince Iraq of the need to open political space to all groups who reject violence in order to broaden the base of the government. The Iraqi constitution should be as democratic as possible in order to avoid the establishment of an Islamic republic. In this respect, the views of the Shiites, as reflected in a declaration made by Ayatollah SISTANI were worrying. Chirac said that Iraq was still at risk of a breakdown which could lead to civil war which could involve surrounding countries. Iraq, he stressed, must remain united. It was for this reason, Chirac said, that those drafting the constitution would have to be agile to create a broadly-based government which would ensure a united Iraq. Chirac added that the Kurds had a desire for separatism which, if achieved, would cause problems for Turkey.

5. (C) Senator Biden pressed Chirac on French assistance to Iraq, prompting the French President to declare "I have never refused anything except troops!" France, he said, was willing to contribute in different ways. He recounted how, at President Bush´s request, France had canceled almost all of Iraq´s debt and had urged Germany to the same. "That decision cost us 4.5 billion dollars," he said. Chirac agreed that it was essential for Iraq to have organized and effective security forces. Then-CPA administrator Bremer´s decision to disband the Iraqi military had been a mistake, he added. He told the Senators that he had waited nine months for a reply from PM Allawi to his offer to train police and gendarmes. After following up several times, he had presented President al Yawer with a written proposal last month during Yawer´s visit to Paris. France, Chirac said, was still waiting for an answer from Iraq. Chirac insisted that France was prepared to follow through on its offer to train 1,500 Iraqis, either in France or in Qatar. Defense Minister Alliot-Marie related this same point to the Codel in her meeting, adding that solving the problem of stabilization in Iraq will depend on the capabilities of real leaders and a commitment by the Sunni leadership. In the Codel´s meeting with Interior Minister de Villepin, he called the successful elections in Iraq an important "step in the right direction, but cautioned that building on that success would require an empowerement of Iraqi people (implicitly bringing closer a U.S. withdrawal) and following up the elections in a way that gives people in the region the conviction that "with democratization also comes justice, specifically progress towards peace between Israelis and Palestinians." The senators emphasized that France´s active participation in Iraq reconstruction, specifically by following through on its offer to train significant numbers of policemen, was key to putting U.S.-France relations back on track. Villepin added that an agreed timetable on next steps among Iraqis, the U.S. and Europe was essential for maintaining momentum against the violence, inertia, and fear of change that would otherwise return to dominate the region.

Middle East

6. (C) Senator Hatch suggested to Chirac that there was an impression of a lack of solidarity between the U.S. and France, particularly on Israel and Palestine. Chirac responded that France favored "a return to the table." There was no disagreement with the U.S., he said, but France felt that the U.S. was not getting involved. The Israeli/Palestinian conflict, he continued, had serious consequences and was used as a justification by fundamentalist groups in Asia and in France. Chirac said he hoped that the U.S. was moving in the direction of engagement and that the broadening of the Israeli government and the change of Palestinian leadership created a more positive situation. Both sides, he said, provoked each other, and only the U.S. could give definitive momentum to the peace process. Chirac stressed the need for creation of a Palestinian state, saying that it was hard to ask the Palestinians to institute democracy without a state. The U.S., he said, could offer simple security guarantees to move the process forward. France and the EU, Chirac said, would support U.S. efforts.


7. (C) Minister Alliot-Marie and the Codel highlighted successful areas of cooperation in the war against terrorism. She noted that terrorism has been internationalized, further necessitating our cooperation in protecting our interests, such as maritime shipping lanes. Looking at the roots of terrorism, Alliot-Marie said we needed to help the poorest regions of the world in order remove their excuse for taking up terrorism. Turning to Afghanistan, she cited the problem of drugs and how trafficking inhibits the country´s stability. She observed that the Karzai government in Afghanistan has a responsibility to reach out to the Afghan people in order to give them a sense of regained sovereignty, as well as to ensure the country´s security. Towards that end, the Germans are providing police training, while the U.S. and France are training the Afghan army. In response to Senator Shelby´s query for French views of NATO, Alliot-Marie observed that following the end of the Cold War NATO could have ceased to exist, however, it is now clear that it is essential for wider missions. She reiterated France´s support for NATO, citing French participation in NATO transformation efforts, especially through its contributions to the Reaction Force, as well as being the second largest contributor to NATO missions. Contrasting NATO with the European defense force (ESDP), Alliot-Marie explained that European forces (Battle-groups) could be activated within 15 days and deployed in places like Africa, where Europe has historical contacts. NATO remains crucial, however, when larger forces are needed, she concluded.

EU Arms Embargo on China

8. (C) Chirac told Senator Smith that while France supported the lifting of the EU arms embargo on China, there was no question of France selling high-tech systems to China which could heighten tensions in the Taiwan straits. Lifting the embargo, he claimed, would have no effect on exports -- it was not a commercial decision -- but was a purely political signal to end the useless humiliation of China which was unjustified and dangerous. Chirac said that U.S. exports to Taiwan were dangerous as they sent the signal to Taiwan that it could do anything, believing they would have the support of the U.S. Taiwan, he said, should not be encouraged in this manner. To do so showed a poor understanding of China and risked a dramatic Chinese military reaction. Asserting that the U.S. was "playing with fire," Chirac offered that there should be an embargo on arms sales to Taiwan. In her meeting with the CODEL, Alliot-Marie repeated French arguments that the embargo is obsolete and not reflective of realities on the ground -- the China of today is different from that of 15 years ago. She noted that relations with China have changed and that the embargo only serves to send a signal of mistrust. Alluding to the post-embargo period, Alliot-Marie stated that Europe has the means to regulate and control exports to China. On the China-Taiwan relationship, she ventured that ties were too close for war to breakout between the two countries. China would not risk its international relations by instigating a problem with Taiwan, while Taiwan would not risk its investments in China.

Iran and nonproliferation

9. (C) Responding to Senators Biden and Chambliss, Chirac said that France had no differences with the U.S. on Iran and was very careful in its discussions with the Iranians not to suggest any such difference. Iranian nuclear proliferation, he said, was a serious issue. Chirac described himself as "intuitively worried" about Iran, saying it was difficult to talk to Shiites, who had a different culture which led them to say what they did not think and think what they did not say. Both France and the U.S., he said, shared the objective of preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The EU3 discussions with Iran, under the auspices of the IAEA continued in consultation with the U.S. in order to achieve an end to weapons programs in exchange for electro-nuclear power. Chirac described UK PM Blair and German Chancellor Schroeder as optimistic, whereas he had less trust in the Iranians. Chirac suggested that with its ample oil and gas reserves, he was "not sure" that Iran´s declared objective of obtaining energy from nuclear sources was credible. After noting that Pakistan was a nuclear power, Chirac reiterated the need for the EU3 and the U.S. to work together on this issue and to include Russia, and even China in the discussions. The Russians he said, had an interest in ensuring that Iran did not have nuclear weapons. Chirac said that he had always been against the use of sanctions, and that France very rarely participated in sanctions regimes. He affirmed, however, that France had no objection to referring Iran to the UNSC if there was the slightest doubt about Iran´s commitment not to develop nuclear weapons. Villepin, for his part, said that Iran "can be convinced" to forego nuclear weapons, but cautioned that unilateral U.S. pressure against Iran would not succeed because "the Iranians are a proud, tough people who are not afraid." He also echoed Chirac´s view that strong European and Russian participation was necessary for success.

Anti-Semitism and France

10. (C) CODEL Smith met with representatives of the French Jewish community to discuss the issue of anti-Semitism in France. Minister for Victim´s Rights Nicole Guedj noted that the GOF acknowledges the problem and has taken exemplary measures to address it. Both Guedj and former-Minister of European Affairs Noelle Lenoir stressed that France was not the only country with problematic anti-Semitism issues, and that European countries needed to work together to reach a common solution. Roger Cukierman, head of CRIF, the umbrella organization representing all Jewish communal institutions in France, stated that France was schizophrenic on anti-Semitism; their internal policy is commendable, but is undermined by their pro-Arab foreign policy. Cukierman cited the (ultimately successful) back-and-forth efforts to ban Hizbollah-backed al-Manar television from being broadcastin France as an example of foreign policy exerting influence on domestic policy. Senator Biden spoke forcefully on the issue, stating that "I don´t believe the government (of France) is doing all it can do."

Meeting with Nicolas Sarkozy

11. (C) Former Interior Minister Finance Minister -- and a leading candidate for the 2007 presidential race -- Nicolas Sarkozy received the Congressional Delegation in his capacity as president of the regional council of Hauts-de-Seine, in Paris´western suburbs. Sarkozy stressed his admiration and friendship for the U.S. He said he was known as "the most pro-American politician in France" and that -- since he had been elected head of France´s largest political by over 80 percent of the party members-- "it´s clear I´m not the only French person who loves the United States." Sarkozy lived up to his reputation for directness and openly acknowledged ambition by telling the Senators that "it would still be two years before he could translate his words of friendship for the U.S. into action." Senators Smith and Hatch extended an invitation to Sarkozy to attend a conference on civil society themes in Provo, Utah in October 2005 sponsored by Brigham Young University, and Sarkozy made clear that he would make every effort to accept.

12. (U) This cable has been cleared by Codel.

13. (U) Kabul and Baghdad minimize considered.