French president pledges solidarity with Bush, but questions whether anti-terror response is ‘war’ |

French president pledges solidarity with Bush, but questions whether anti-terror response is ‘war’


WASHINGTON (AP) – French President Jacques Chirac pledged his nation’s full support for the United States’ campaign against terrorism Tuesday, but questioned whether it qualifies as a war.

”I don’t know whether we should use the word ‘war,’ Chirac said at the start of an Oval Office meeting with Bush.

”But what I can say is that now we are faced with a conflict of a completely new nature, a conflict which is attempting to destroy human rights, freedom, the dignity of man,” he said.

”I believe that everything must be done to protect and safeguard these values of civilization, therefore we are naturally prepared to work in complete solidarity with the United States and do everything which is necessary in consultation with them to reach this target which is the elimination of terrorism,” he said.

Chirac said the French are ”completely determined to fight by your side this new type of evil, of absolute evil, which is terrorism.”

Questioned later about his hesitation to call the conflict a war, Chirac said, ”I don’t want to engage in quarrels of semantics.”

”I’m perfectly aware of what has happened, and whether you call it war or whether you call it conflict, what it is is something which is completely new,” he said.

Bush said he was confident France would commit to helping the United States in what he has repeatedly called a coming war, though he didn’t say how.

”If you love freedom, you must join with us. You must join with America and France,” he said. ”And there’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll find solidarity with the French and the French government.”

Bush and Chirac dined together after addressing reporters in the Oval Office.

A White House official said after Chirac’s remarks that the administration felt confident of the French commitment to the anti-terrorism campaign. ”If you look at President Chirac’s statement, look at the entire thing, I think it’s very clear that the French people and France are in solidarity with the United States,” spokesman Sean McCormack said.

Chirac’s reluctance to label the conflict a war reflected growing consternation in Europe about where the United States is leading its allies.

On a continent twice devastated by global conflicts in the 20th century, politicians are loath to use the word ”war.”

”It’s not a war,” Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel said Monday. ”You can’t just use words like that. There needs to be a ‘mobilization’ against terrorism.”

Nearly half of Swedes in a poll published Tuesday said it would be wrong for the United States to attack Afghanistan if it doesn’t hand over Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the attacks.

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