Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine
Interview with Le Monde Newspaper (excerpts)
September 22, 2001

What information have you brought back from Washington?

The American leaders appeared to us to be calmly determined, not edgy, committed to long-term action.

Planning no doubt for short-term action - but I can't give you any idea of dates - to "smash" the head of bin Laden's network or networks, if possible doing this through Pakistan, if not by other more direct means. Beyond that, their aim is financially to dry up the whole system, which will mean them exerting very strong pressure on those countries aiding terrorism through countless private or pseudo-charitable channels, even if the governments as such are not involved. Then to fight terrorism we need to coordinate efforts at the police, financial and legal levels, by pooling intelligence and, I might add, by dealing with the causes. A number of situations are fuelling terrorism. In Washington we found people working on these different points.

What help are they asking for from France?

For the moment, they haven't made any specific requests for military aid. Nothing they said indicates that they want to use NATO. But there's the huge effort Colin Powell is making on the politico-diplomatic front in order to build what he calls "the coalition". He himself insists that military action is only one aspect among others; he uses the term "coalition" for the whole range of actions which are going to be developed in all spheres of the fight against terrorism, we mustn't give it the same meaning as it had during the Gulf War. The Americans are not looking to mount a military coalition in the strict sense of the term.

Could they request the aid of Europe or France?

It's not the case at this stage, but I don't rule it out. Over there, President Chirac forcefully expressed our solidarity. The Prime Minister has talked about solidarity at the human, political and operational levels. That solidarity in no way undermines our freedom of decision. They will decide what to do if we are faced with a specific request. (...)

President Chirac has insisted on the role the UN might play. What is it? Must the United States go back to the Security Council before an operation?

It was at France's initiative that on 12 September the Security Council adopted UNSCR 1368 which condemns the terrorist attacks and recognizes the United States' right of legitimate defence. The UN has thus given the United States and their allies wide-ranging authorization to respond. When it comes to the Security Council, there could conceivably be more specific action, for example sanctions against States refusing to cooperate. We French think that, going beyond the short-term response, the Security Council is the most legitimate forum to define the world's general policy for combating terrorism. Just over a year ago, I presented to the UN General Assembly a Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism. Regrettably, to date, only four countries have ratified it and we need twenty-two: ratification must be speeded up.


The more violent and swifter the retaliation, the greater the risks of breaking up the "coalition"...

If the targets are deemed legitimate, the Americans will be able to go on building and consolidating a genuine long-term global coalition to eradicate terrorism. They aren't giving the impression of wanting to settle, through an inappropriate reaction, other accounts. Instead, they are talking of a political coalition. They have asked the world's countries if they agree to join the fight against terrorism. All have replied in the affirmative. Now there is a need for strong and just action.