Envoy Says French Veto Would Upset U.S.NATHALIE SCHUCK , Associated Press
Feb. 25, 2003 1:02 PM ET
PARIS (AP) _ The United States would consider it ``very unfriendly'' if France vetoes the new U.S.-backed draft resolution on Iraq, U.S. Ambassador Howard H. Leach said Tuesday.
``France and the United States can do many things together,'' the ambassador said in an interview on LCI television.
``I hope that we will continue to work together,'' said Leach, in comments dubbed into French by the television station. ``I hope, in any case, there won't be a veto because a veto, to my mind, would be very unfriendly and we wouldn't look very kindly upon it.''
The ambassador did not spell out any consequences should France veto the resolution, presented Monday in the U.N. Security Council by the United States, Britain and Spain.
The parliamentary head of France's ruling center-right UMP party, Jacques Barrot, said he did not want the government's anti-war stance ``to appear as antagonistic toward the United States.''
One must ``avoid useless splits in the international community,'' he told reporters.
UMP party president Alain Juppe cautioned that France must think carefully about possible fallout from using its veto, calling it ``a weapon of dissuasion, but which can have extremely serious consequences.''
But the opposition Socialist Party leader, Francois Hollande, urged the government to veto the U.S.-backed initiative, saying it was aimed at ``justifying military intervention in Iraq.''
``We must persevere to the end,'' Hollande told reporters.
The comments came ahead of a debate about Iraq planned for Wednesday in the parliament.
The U.S.-backed draft resolution does not ask that war be sanctioned but adopting it would be tantamount to Security Council authorization for military strikes.
France has emerged as the leader among nations seeking to avoid military strikes on Iraq, and has pressed hard to give U.N. weapons inspectors better means to do their job and more time.
France, Russia and Germany circulated a plan Monday at the Security Council to pursue peaceful disarmament of Iraq with strengthened inspections.
Leach dismissed scattered suggestions in the United States that French products, like cheese, wine or mineral water, be boycotted.
``I don't think there is any serious boycott against French products. This is maybe an emotional, isolated reaction.''
The ambassador said he did not believe that there was a true anti-French feeling gaining Americans.
``I think Americans like the French a lot,'' Leach said.