Thursday 23 November 2017

Blair crusaded for armed conflict, claims Chirac

Henry Samuel in Paris

Jacques Chirac has used his memoirs to claim that Tony Blair fought "crusades" for armed conflict and will bear a heavy historical responsibility for the Iraq war.

Mr Chirac said he took an instant shine to the former prime minister when he won office in 1997 but that he soon found Mr Blair to be a superficial figure.

"From the start, he impressed as a daring, charismatic, resourceful and determined leader . . . a complete contrast with his predecessors.

"This spontaneity had nothing candid about it, naturally, nor was it exempt from calculation," wrote Mr Chirac.

Relations between the two soured, however, over the invasion of Iraq.

Mr Chirac said he was "disappointed and indignant" about Mr Blair's stance.

"After trying, when he took office, to break free of Washington's yoke, Tony Blair ended up conforming to it," he wrote. "By rallying to (the Americans) right from the start, (he) alas deprived himself of any real capacity to influence the analysis of the US administration on the regional situation that it knew less well than Britain.

"He is burdened with a heavy responsibility in the eyes of history."

Contrary to claims at the time, Mr Chirac said: "I never excluded, for my part, France committing (troops) alongside the US, as it did before in Bosnia and Kosovo if an intervention was deemed legitimate."

However, by December 2002, his army chief was told by the US that time was running out for France to commit troops. Mr Chirac refused.

He also claimed that Britain and the US "manifestly sought to orient the work of (weapons) inspectors through their respective secret services," before the second UN resolution.

He said they were already "preparing" for action. France opposed the resolution and the US and UK went to war without it.

The two leaders had clashed over military commitments before when Mr Blair sought a massive deployment of forces to Kosovo.

In 'The Presidential Time', which charts his 12 years in power from 1995 to 2007, the 78-year-old said he played a "decisive" role in blocking Mr Blair's desire to send ground troops in the spring of 1999. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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