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France: Iraq inspections working

Levitte: France believes the current U.N. resolution is working.
Levitte: France believes the current U.N. resolution is working.

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•  Commanders: U.S. | Iraq
•  Weapons: 3D Models

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- France's ambassador to the U.S. has insisted that weapons inspections in Iraq were working, and that Washington has no clear authority for waging war now.

Jean-David Levitte was speaking as President Bush met the leaders of Spain and Britain -- a summit which ended with the three saying the diplomatic window would be closed by the end of Monday.

Intense diplomatic efforts by the three allies this week failed to muster the nine votes needed in the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution giving Iraq a series of benchmark tests and deadlines to show he was cooperating with the weapons inspectors.

Levitte told CNN: "There is a debate on the legal issue, but politically we think it's unwise to go to war now. If there is a resolution now, and it doesn't get the nine votes, yes, (war) would be illegal.

"If there is no second resolution (and) simply the United States on the basis of existing resolutions goes to war, it's a different situation.

"It's more complex, it's more of a Kosovo-type situation."

In 1999, the United States led NATO forces in attacks to try and end a campaign of ethnic cleansing in the Serbian province, without seeking a U.N. resolution.

"But what's important for us now, is to do whatever possible to prevent this war," Levitte said. "We consider the inspections are producing results and should continue."

His remarks came before leaders of the U.S., Spain and Britain ended their summit meeting Sunday with a news conference saying if agreement on a resolution for Iraq is not found within 24 hours then the diplomatic window is closed.

Levitte expressed support for a Chilean proposal allowing Iraq up to 30 days for continued inspections, but he denied France is ruling out military action completely.

"We say if the inspectors tell us, 'We have reached a dead end, we cannot produce more results, but there is lot to do,' then the Security Council will meet and decide and we don't exclude the use of force," he said.

Levitte rejected criticism voiced by U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, that France had "consistently opposed efforts" to hold the Iraqi president accountable.

"When we adopted this resolution, we had no illusion: Saddam Hussein is a dictator, he would not transform himself into a kind of Nelson Mandela, but at the same time, we were pretty confident it would produce results, that a peaceful disarming of Saddam Hussein is possible and that is exactly what is happening now," Levitte said.


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