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French PM: We'll take Iran to U.N.

De Villepin said the unrest was a challenge for the whole of France.



Dominique de Villepin

PARIS, France (CNN) -- French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has said if Iran does not accept Europe's current proposal aimed at preventing that country from acquiring a nuclear weapons program "we will have to go then to the Security Council."

But he expressed optimism that "a deal is possible" despite Iran's announcement that it will resume its program of uranium enrichment.

In a wide-ranging exclusive interview with CNN Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour, de Villepin said that France and the international community must put "all its forces together" to prevent a civil war in Iraq and to blunt terrorism.

As to whether the United States should withdraw its troops, the French prime minister said any withdrawal would have to be coordinated, taking into account "the situation on the ground" in Iraq.

And on the topic of civil unrest, de Villepin avowed that weeks of violence by thousands of young people in France were not riots but protests by youths who had lost their identities.

He said it is up to the French government and the French people to give those young people what they want -- "to be 100 percent French," with all the rights and opportunities of French people.

He said he will go to the French National Assembly on Thursday with a "full program" to correct what he conceded were decades when France did not do enough for such people.

Asked if is true that Europe is ready to reopen negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, de Villepin said, "No. We have made an offer. And Iran has decided to resume the enrichment of uranium, the conversion of uranium, and I think it is very important now today to put pressure on Iran to make sure that they accept this offer. If they don't accept -- then we will have to go then to the Security Council."

Asked if it is possible to get an agreement, de Villepin said, "As always, in any negotiations, it is difficult to make any prediction, but I think that there is a deal possible, there is an offer that has been made by the Europeans and I think it is in the interests of the international community, in the interests of Iran, to accept these proposals."

De Villepin, who, as French foreign minister, was a chief voice for nations against an invasion of Iraq, said he did not feel vindicated by what has happened in Iraq.

Calling it a "very difficult situation," he said the international community must be ready to deal with the reality of what is happening in that nation.

"We knew since the beginning that it was very easy to go to war, but very difficult to get out of Iraq, because of the fragility of the country, because of the sensitivity of the situation in this region.

"So now we have to face the situation as it is, and it is the responsibility of all the international community to help the process, to make sure that we go forward all together."

The December 15 general elections will mark an "important moment" in the history of Iraq, said de Villepin, because of the double dangers of civil war and terrorism.

"We know that there are two risks in Iraq still today. One is the division of Iraq, which is, of course, a nightmare for the region. And the second one is a growing role of terrorism."

Asked if the United States should set a timetable for withdrawing its troops, de Villepin said any action should be "coordinated with the local situation in Iraq and the regional situation.

"I think that the timetable should be a global timetable. The real timetable is the Iraqi situation. We should avoid at all cost the chaos in Iraq, which, of course, would be disastrous for the whole region."

Key is to 'end discrimination'

For two weeks, France was shocked by nightly unrest in which 9,000 vehicles were burned, 130 policemen were injured and more than 100 public buildings damaged or destroyed.

But de Villepin said the violence was a "very special movement" spawned by the failure of French society to live up to one of the ideals of the French republic -- that everyone is equal.

The government, he said, will move "very, very fast" to correct conditions in France that have made many of its youths lose their identity and feel they are victims of discrimination.

"Very often, you have people coming from the second generation of immigration," he said. "They don't know their country of origin. They don't have the same link with France as their parents who chose to come and work here. So, as Jacques Chirac, the President of the Republic said, there was some kind of a lack of identity."

He said the government would move forward with programs to provide decent housing, create jobs, and help young people go to school to prepare for successful careers.

The answer, he said, was for the people of France to end discrimination.

"So, I believe that it is a matter of mobilization in the country in order to make sure that discrimination is not going to be accepted," said de Villepin.

But he rejected programs that were called "affirmative action" in the United States and "positive discrimination" in France.

While many of the youths who burned cars and attacked police are the children of immigrants, de Villepin said, the violence had "no ethnic or religious basis."

"They don't want to be recognized as Muslims, or as blacks, or as people coming from North Africa. They want to be recognized as French and they want to have equal opportunity during their lives."

The French answer, said de Villepin, would be unique.

"We are going to help as well any young children in France facing difficulties -- but not taking into account the fact he is black or coming from Maghreb or being Muslim. Everyone who is having difficulties is going to be taken into account and helped individually."

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