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France
President Jacques Chirac
Briefing after meeting with President George W. Bush
Washington, D.C.
September 18, 2001

Ladies and Gentlemen,

My aides and I have just met with the president and his aides. It was an extremely interesting meeting, for me at least, and it was given over to all the problems in the world today of course, and first and foremost the tragedy which struck the United States on September 11. But we also looked at all the global problems.

With regard to the terrorist attack on the United States, I naturally wanted to reaffirm to the president, and through him to all the American people, first of course the complete solidarity of the French people, their heartfelt solidarity. I told him that according to a recent poll in France, 96% of the French had expressed their solidarity. As far as I know, that is unprecedented in our country. It shows the extent to which the French felt affected by the attack against the United States.

I also confirmed naturally that we are resolved to take part in and strengthen the necessary efforts against terrorism which is, in reality, an attack on freedoms, human rights, the dignity of the human being and which must be eradicated.

Lastly, I told him France was ready to cooperate with the United States, naturally, but also that so were all countries in the world that want to fight against terrorism and for human dignity, in every action to root out this evil which is, today, an absolute evil.

Mr. President, did you talk about what the American response might be and the possible role of the U.N.?

THE PRESIDENT - We talked together about the various hypotheses and also privately with the president. All I can say now is that I have a better understanding of U.S. intentions and what they're thinking. But I'm not going to make any comment in this area.

When you speak of cooperating with the U.S., what does it mean, especially militarily?

THE PRESIDENT - We talked at some length about the need for all countries in the world to cooperate to strengthen our means to deal with terrorism. Everyone understands that this comprises a whole series of initiatives--in the judicial domain, in intelligence, in actions to prevent the money laundering that finances terrorists--in short in a whole range of areas. Military cooperation can be envisioned, naturally, but insofar as we would first have had joint consultations on the objectives and methods of an action. As you know, France, like all NATO countries, retains the sovereign right to assess the methods and nature of its eventual military intervention.

Is it your sense this evening that the U.S. is preparing for a measured and targeted strike?

THE PRESIDENT - I have no comment. My sense is that the president of the United States has a perfectly clear view of the situation and is firmly resolved to take coordinated action against terrorism at the international level. And I can only approve of his objectives and what he told us this evening.

Mr. President, there are probably more than five thousand people dead. Why are you reluctant to admit it's a war?

THE PRESIDENT - I have never expressed the slightest reluctance. I don't know where you found that...

You said you didn't want to use the word 'war.'

THE PRESIDENT - I don't want to quibble about semantics. I'm perfectly well aware of what has happened, naturally, and as I told George Bush just now, perfectly well aware that this is a conflict, a war, call it what you like, but there is a new action which implies new means for fighting a new evil, one that we've got to crush.

Mr. President, is there going to be closer, more intelligent cooperation between Western secret services?

THE PRESIDENT - Not only the secret services but police, judicial officials, all the technical means at our disposal, including the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Telecommunications Organization, the efforts to prevent money-laundering--in short all these resources have to be coordinated, expanded and modernized in order to make them more effective, for there is the very source of the evil. It's a war, to use your word, that has to be waged on all fronts.

Are you troubled by the blurring between fighting terrorists and fighting the Arab world and Islam? Can France play a role to prevent it?

THE PRESIDENT - That's a very important point, and it is exactly the sentiment I got from President Bush who, moreover, brought it up with representatives of the press just a moment ago. It is essential not to confuse terrorist, fanatical fundamentalists on one hand with the Arab or Moslem world on the other. To blur the lines would be both unjust and unacceptable. It would also be falling into the trap laid for us by the terrorists. But, from this standpoint, I saw that all the heads of state and government leaders I've met, including President Bush this evening, had exactly the same approach and the same analysis.

Thank you.

END