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French cite examples of what they call false stories


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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- CNN has obtained a copy of a two-page list accompanying a letter from France to the United States that cites examples of what the French have described as false stories about its alleged complicity with Iraq.

Here is an edited excerpt of the text from the list:

• In a September 2002 "Week in Review" section, The New York Times published an article entitled "Psst ... Can I Get a Bomb Trigger?" alleging that in 1998 France and Germany had supplied Iraq with high-precision switches used in detonating nuclear weapons.

The French Embassy issued a denial, which was published the following week in that section's Letters to the Editor column, noting that a French company had indeed received an order for 120 switches, presented as "spare parts" for medical equipment, but that the French authorities had immediately barred this sale and alerted both Germany and the country that had previously sold the equipment that incorporated the switches.

• On November 5, 2002, the front page of The Washington Post carried a story entitled "Four Nations Thought to Possess Smallpox." According to this article, France, along with Russia, Iraq and North Korea possess prohibited human smallpox strains. This "information" was purportedly given to the Washington Post by an "American intelligence source," who mentioned the existence of a "report" on this subject.

At the French Embassy's request, the Post subsequently published a rebuttal from the embassy press office noting that France abides by WHO provisions and by its own national regulations prohibiting the possession of human smallpox strains.

• On March 7, 2003, Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz asserted two French companies had sold Iraq spare parts for airplanes and helicopters. The article referred to "a U.S. intelligence source."

On March 8, the two companies named in the story formally denied these allegations, as did the embassy, which had already given a categorical reply to the question put to it by the reporter. On March 10, the Foreign Ministry deputy spokesperson reiterated the two companies' denial, adding that French authorities had never authorized the export or re-export of such spare parts and strictly respected the arms embargo and [U.N.] Security Council resolutions. The denial was published, which did not prevent The Washington Times from regularly referring to this case.

• On March 13, New York Times columnist William Safire began a series of articles entitled "The French Connection" in which he claimed that France had permitted the delivery of sensitive equipment to Iraq. According to him, a French intermediary had facilitated Iraq's acquisition, through Syria, of chemical components for long-range surface-to-surface missiles. Safire asserted in the same article that "he had been told" that the Société Nationale des Poudres et Explosifs had signed a contract in April 2002 to provide Iraq with 5 tons of dimethyl hydrazine, a chemical that can be used for missile propulsion.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman denied these allegations on March 14, noting that it had neither delivered nor authorized the delivery of such products, either directly or indirectly. In his interview with CNN/CBS, President Chirac expressed himself most clearly on this subject. Although he no longer mentioned the SNPE after that, Safire nevertheless continued his attacks in two successive columns. Moreover, The New York Times never published the embassy's rebuttal to these charges nor took the trouble to answer the letter the French Ambassador personally sent them on this subject.

• On April 2 on MSNBC, Joe Scarborough accused France of selling Iraq "planes, missiles, armored vehicles, radar equipment and spare parts for Iraqi fighter planes," and of offering to sell nuclear reactors, without mentioning specific dates.

Needless to say, France fully complies with the U.N. sanctions against Iraq, including a ban of all weapons sales.

• On April 21, Newsweek reported the "possible" discovery of Roland 2 missiles by coalition forces in Iraq and implied that they had been manufactured in 2002. A charred Roland 3 missile launcher was also allegedly found.

Once again, the ministry spokesman had to specify that France had sold no military equipment to Iraq since the summer of 1990 and that it was furthermore impossible for Roland 2s to have been manufactured in 2002, given the fact that they were not manufactured after 1993. This information had in fact been communicated to the author of the article, who made very limited use of it.

• On May 6, The Washington Times once again attacked our country, indicating that according to an "anonymous American intelligence source," France had helped wanted Iraqi leaders to escape to Europe by providing them with French passports.

Although the author of that article did call the embassy and included our denial in his article, he nevertheless referred to this supposed "scandal" three times in the following days. The fact that the Foreign Ministry's spokesman issued a categorical denial did not dissuade The Washington Times.

• Recently, as reported again by The Washington Times, other "intelligence sources" accused France and Russia of seeking to sign oil contracts with Iraq just before the start of the war. A "military expert" asked by MSNBC about the coalition's failure to discover banned weapons insinuated that "weapons could well have been discovered" and that they "could very well be French or Russian," which would have led the administration not to mention them "out of concern for easing tensions."


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