Prime Minister Lionel Jospin
Interview with Ouest-France Newspaper (excerpts)
Rennes, France
September 27, 2001

Do you think the terrorist attacks of 11 September will prompt people to rethink the world order?

No world disorder can justify the barbarity of such acts. The roots of terrorism lie in fanaticism, hatred of others, a destructive vision of the world and not in imbalances in international relations. But, admittedly, in too many countries we see tensions, frustrations, a radicalism stemming from social inequalities. We know about the injustice in North-South relations, but there are also problems in the South resulting from the absence of democracy, monopolizing of wealth, and unfair and ineffective development models. These things must be corrected by a more mutually-supportive organization of the world and, in the shorter term, by finding solutions to some burning issues.


In the Middle East for example?

We must make sure that in our reactions, our analyses, the words we use, the way we respond to the terrorist attacks, we don't contribute to one party in that region coming to accept the murderous folly of very small minority groups. Terrorism must be isolated. That's why we share the concern of the Egyptian President, Mr Mubarak, with whom I had a meeting on Monday in Paris, to see a resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue. The two peoples confronting one another and their leaders must realize that the further they go down the path of radicalization, the worse the problems will become. And it's a fact that, at the moment, it isn't possible to demand that one of the parties totally refrain from violence before any discussion of a ceasefire. That's why the meeting between Arafat and Peres was necessary, since it is only through dialogue that security can be restored.


We get the feeling that you have reservations about the military action the Americans are preparing in retaliation for the attacks?

There aren't any reservations. We are standing four-square behind the American people. We share their grief. We understand their anger. We are totally committed to the fight against terrorism. At national level, we are demonstrating this through effective efforts to dismantle networks. At European level, we are working for better coordination of judicial and police policies. At international level, our police and judicial services are cooperating far more closely and we are defining a common approach to terrorism in the United Nations bodies and working on ways to cut off its funding. The rapid change in the United States' attitude to the fight against dirty money and control of tax havens is an excellent development. Incidentally, yesterday we became, as far as I know, the first country after the United States to freeze the assets of groups and individuals with terrorist links. As regards a possible commitment of French forces, it's not a matter of reservations but of adopting a wait-and-see policy. We have told our American friends what we deem desirable and what, on the contrary, we consider risky. We have declared that we are ready and willing [to help]. We shall take our sovereign decision on the principle and possible forms of an engagement, if this is what is asked of us.



Are you certain about bin Laden's responsibility?

The terrorist world is impenetrable and secretive. A series of clues implicates the bin Laden group and others, which aren't necessarily linked to him. Action must be taken against all these groups. I want to emphasize that, to fight terrorism, we must remind States of their responsibility as members of the international community. Some of them must stop colluding with terrorists or turning a blind eye to their activities. The fact that Afghanistan seems to be a sanctuary for terrorism is causing a problem which we're very probably going to see resolved.

That marks her out as the target for the response?

The Americans were the victims of a terrorism which threatens us all. We accept that they have a right of legitimate defence. A resolution to this effect was passed at the UN Security Council. Until we know the nature of the response, it is difficult to start thinking about its consequences. What is clear is that United Nations doesn't recognize the Taliban regime. They admit to having close links with bin Laden and his groups. Irrespective of terrorism, they are imposing on the Afghans - and to an even greater extent on the women - intolerable forms of political and social organization. Somehow, while sparing the people who have already suffered too much, this problem must be resolved.


Judging by the information in your possession, do you think France faces a particular Islamist threat?

We have no information indicating that France might be targeted even though we know that there could be US targets in our country. But we must be vigilant. This is why the judicial and police services are very actively carrying out operations which have led to arrests. This is also why, to protect and mobilize the population we have activated phase two of the Vigipirate plan and stepped up surveillance of public places and areas at risk. (...)


Discoveries of arms stocks have given the impression that the security services were surprised by the increase in violence. Have they done what's necessary to protect us?

The arrests of members of both fundamentalist Islamist networks and ETA demonstrate the State, the Government's determination to ensure that judicial and police action against terrorists, as in fact against all forms of crime, is carried out with a firm hand. I might add that as regards intelligence our services are always actively working on the ground. (...).