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French PM: Iraq crisis not a game

Raffarin
Raffarin: Iraq crisis is not a game

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NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- U.S. President George W. Bush's declaration to Iraq that "the game is over" has drawn a harsh response from French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin.

Bush issued a statement on Thursday saying Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had thrown away his "final chance" and "the game is over."

But Raffarin, visiting Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in New Delhi, said the Iraq crisis "is not a game" and it is "not over."

Vajpayee, agreeing with Raffarin, said: "I don't think that the game is over."

India and France oppose any unilateral U.S. attack on Iraq, but both countries also insist Baghdad come clean on weapons of mass destruction and disarm.

The majority of U.N. Security Council members apparently share those opinions.

Earlier this week, diplomats told CNN that 11 out of 15 council members were in favour of continuing inspections, and would not at that time approve a second resolution authorising military force against Iraq.

France and Germany have been at the head of that movement.

French President Jacques Chirac said on Friday that Colin Powell's presentation to the Security Council, while powerful, was not enough reason to turn from inspections to war.

"France considers that between the situation of inspections as it is now and war, there are many steps to be taken in order to disarm Iraq, and that we haven't fully explored these possibilities yet," Chirac said.

"The decision to resort to war can't be taken lightly. War is always an admission of failure and the worst solution. There still exists an alternative to war."

France is one of five Security Council members with veto power. The other four are Russia, China, Britain and the United States.

The Security Council's next meeting is next Friday.

The council "has got to make up its mind soon as to whether or not its word means anything," Bush said on Friday as he spoke with reporters.

"I mean, the record's poor at best. The man (Saddam) has been told to disarm for 12 long years. He's ignored the demands of the free world. And we passed another resolution, and for 90 days he's -- the best way I can describe it is -- played a game with the inspectors."

U.N. chief weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei are scheduled to arrive in Baghdad on Saturday to solicit more cooperation from Saddam Hussein's government. (Full story)

A senior U.N. official has said that by the time Blix arrives in Baghdad this weekend, he expects three key inspection issues to be resolved, including private interviews with Iraqi scientists, the use of U-2 spy planes, and Iraq's enforcement of legislation prohibiting companies from making weapons of mass destruction.


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