Iraq/Oil-for-Food program

Letter from Jean-David Levitte, Ambassador of France in the United States, to the Wall Street Journal.

Washington, October 17, 2005

In response to your Oct. 14 editorial " Multilateralism à la Française ": I strongly disagree with your conflation of two very different things: legal proceedings involving some French individuals and the policy of the French government regarding Iraq. I would like to address both questions:

1. Regarding Serge Boidevaix and Jean-Bernard Mérimée, whom you mention : According to my information, they are undergoing legal proceedings connected with their private activities, which they initiated following their retirement. The French courts are investigating this matter, which prevents me from further commenting on their personal situation; it should be remembered, however, that they are presumed innocent until proven guilty. I would simply like to stress that the French Foreign Ministry is cooperating fully with the investigation, as with all investigations currently being carried out with regard to the Oil-for-Food program, whether they are conducted by the U.N.-established Volker Committee or the U.S. Congress. My government is exemplary in terms of transparency for one good reason: We are determined to know the truth. That is the strength and pride of great democracies.

2. None of the above has anything to do with the way policy decisions on Iraq were taken and implemented in France during the years of the Oil-for-Food program, which started after Jean-Bernard Merimée left New York and Serge Boidevaix left the Foreign Ministry. The French position on Iraq was well known, and it was tough: We participated in the first Gulf War, pushed for imposing sanctions because of Iraq’s reluctance to disarm, strictly enforced the arms embargo and fully supported U.N. inspections. We tracked and foiled a number of Iraqi attempts to re-engage in weapons programs and did so in close cooperation with the United States.

Opposing a military intervention in Iraq at a time when U.N. inspections were working and Iraq was not an imminent threat to peace was a decision my country is proud of, one based on principles and shared by many other nations. The behavior of my country and the French diplomatic approach toward Iraq deserve respect, not insults or innuendoes. No one in the U.S. would use current legal proceedings against American nationals or companies related to the Oil-for-Food program to conclude the U.S. government was involved in some kind of despicable compromise with a bloody dictator. I strongly believe my government deserves the same fair judgment.

Jean-David Levitte
Ambassador of France to the U.S.

Embassy of France in the United States - October 17, 2005

Last modified on 18/10/2005

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