President Chirac Says Time Proves France Was Right to Resist War

By ELAINE SCIOLINO

Nee York Times

January 6, 2007

PARIS, Jan. 6 — In a scathing attack of the American-led war in Iraq, President Jacques Chirac said Friday that his predictions that the war would spread chaos and more terrorism had come true.

“As France had foreseen and feared, the war in Iraq has sparked upheavals that have yet to show their full effects,” Mr. Chirac said in his New Year’s address at Élysée Palace to the foreign diplomatic corps.

“This adventure has worsened the divisions among communities and threatened the very integrity of Iraq,” he said. “It has undermined the stability of the entire region, where every country now fears for its security and its independence. It has offered terrorism a new field for expansion.”

As President Bush prepares to unveil next week a new military strategy in Iraq, Mr. Chirac added that “the priority, more than ever, is to restore full sovereignty to the Iraqi people.”

The single paragraph on Iraq in a speech that addressed many crises and problems around the world was one of Mr. Chirac’s most pointed justifications for France’s decision to oppose the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

In a sense, the attack was surprising. France’s opposition to the war set off a crisis in French-American relations that has since eased, thanks to close cooperation between the United States and France to resolve the summer’s Israeli-Hezbollah war and to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

As the violence and chaos in Iraq steadily worsened, despite the presence of American troops, the 74-year-old French president tended to avoid reminding the United States of its failures there.

After Mr. Bush’s re-election, for example, Mr. Chirac sent him a handwritten “Cher George” letter of congratulations. He also gave a speech expressing hope that 2005 would be a year of “trust” with Mr. Bush, and congratulated him again after elections took place in Iraq.

In Mr. Chirac’s last speech to the foreign diplomatic corps, a year ago, he expressed hope that Iraqi elections would help unify Iraqis.

But as Mr. Chirac seems unlikely to run for a third term in presidential elections this spring, he may feel he has little to lose in being blunt in defending what some French political analysts call the high point of his foreign policy in his 12-year presidency.

In Friday’s speech, Mr. Chirac also attacked “the pitfalls of unilateralism,” a veiled criticism of the Bush administration for going to war in Iraq without the backing of the United Nations Security Council.

He repeated his approval of the emergence of a “multipolar world” as countries like China, India and Brazil assume “the status of global powers.” The term enrages the Bush administration because it seems to envision a power that competes with American interests and influence.