Reprinted from NewsMax.com
France'sChirac Tries to Sabotage IranSanctions
WASHINGTON -- French PresidentJacques Chirac is attempting to sabotage U.S.-led efforts to applyeconomic and diplomatic pressure on Iran, according to a report bythe center-left French daily, Le Monde.
In a throwback to much-criticized behavior during the buildupto the Iraq war, Chirac planned to send his foreign minister on asecret trip to Tehran in late January, armed with a personal letterof assurances for Iran's Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, thedaily reported.
Chirac wanted "to send a message to the Iranian authoritiesthat a channel of communication can be kept open despite the vote bythe United Nations Security Council" to impose sanctions on Iran, thepaper wrote.
The United Nations Security Council imposed a basket ofeconomic and diplomatic sanctions on Iran under Security Councilresolution 1737 on Dec. 23.
While some, including former U.S. Ambassador to the United NationsJohn Bolton, have criticized the resolution as too weak, the Iranianswere sufficiently concerned that they actively sought French help toget around the sanctions, Le Monde reported.
The U.N. sanctions ban the sale of any goods that "couldcontribute" to Iran's uranium enrichment, plutonium reprocessing, andheavy water programs, or to the development of nuclear weapondelivery systems.
The sanctions also include much-broader measures that require U.N.member states "to prevent the provision to Iran of any technicalassistance or training, financial assistance, investment, brokeringor other services . . . related to the supply, sale, transfer,manufacture or use of the prohibited items."
United Nations members have until Feb. 23, 2007 to report backon how they have complied with the Security Council resolution.
When Chirac put off the trip by his emissary, Iran's ambassador toFrance, Ali Ahani, sent a "letter of protest" to Chirac's diplomaticadvisor, Maurice Gourdault-Montagne.
According to Le Monde, Saudi Arabia and Egypt objected to theFrench initiative. So did the United States, via National SecurityAdvisor Stephen Hadley.
The dispute with the U.S. "shows that Jacques Chirac hasdistanced himself from the Bush administration line," Le Mondeadded.
Chirac's move also puts France at odds with its European partners.European Union foreign ministers agreed on Jan. 22 in Brussels toapply the U.N. sanctions "in full and without delay."
In order to plan the trip by his foreign minister to Tehran,Chirac and his diplomatic advisor received a personal emissary fromIranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the Elysee palace inSeptember.
Chirac sent Gourdault-Montagne to Geneva for a second meetingwith the Iranian emissary, Hashemi Samareh, in October. They agreedthat French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy would visit Tehranon Janu. 25, during the international conference on Lebanon, whichwas held in Paris, and hosted by the French government.
A major issue during that conference, attended by U.S. Secretary ofState Condoleezza Rice, was Iran's rearming of the Hezbollah militiain Lebanon, despite a separate U.N. Security Council resolution fromthis past summer banning arms shipments to the Lebanese terroristgroup.
French diplomatic sources told NewsMax that the planned trip byDouste-Blazy to Tehran was "only in the exploratory phase."
"If we had decided to go forward, it would have been afterconsultation with our partners in the region and internationally,including the United States," they said.
"It was never our intention to raise the nuclear question"during the trip, but "to remind Iran of what we expect of them as aresponsible regional power," including acceptance of Israel's rightto exist and Lebanon's independence and sovereignty.
However, the diplomats said, "if Iran did agree to suspend itssensitive nuclear activities in a verifiable fashion, we wereprepared to negotiate a suspension of the United Nationssanctions."
"Call it a ‘big bang': you suspend, we suspend," theyadded. Despite the temporary setback, the president of the Iranianchamber of commerce and industry, Seyed Ali Naghi Khamouchi, visitedFrance on Jan. 30, in a bid to expand trade ties between the twocountries in the wake of the U.N. Security Council resolution.
According to a French-based Iranian opposition Web site,iran-resist.org, Khamouchi "promised investments [to Frenchcompanies] that would be exempt from U.S. sanctions" by offeringnew contracts with state-owned companies that have recently beenprivatized.
At the same time Chirac was attempting to buy the Iranianregime some economic breathing room, the French bankSociété Générale appeared to have pulledback its financing from a major Iranian natural gas developmentcontract.
On Dec. 30, one week after the U.N. Security Council sanctionswere announced, the head of Pars Oil and Gas Company, Akbar Torkan,said he was "disappointed" that the French bank had frozen credit forphases 17 and 18 of the multi-billion dollar South Pars gas field,which lies offshore between Iran and Qatar in the Persian Gulf.
Other Western banks, including Credit Suisse, Credit Lyonnais,and HSBC, had also decided to review new loan agreements for Iraniangas projects, he said.
Reuters reported that French company Alcatel Telecom was scaling backits commercial involvement in Iran. Separately, the French newsagency, AFP, reported that a French judge was investigating a majorFrench oil company for allegedly having paid bribes to the family offormer Iranian President hashemi-Rafsanjani to gain oil and gas fielddevelopment contracts.
Rafsanjani is currently being touted as a "moderate"alternative to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, even though Iranlaunched its clandestine nuclear weapons program while Rafsanjani wasin power.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry (Hank) Paulson met withcounterparts in Asia and international bank directors in Hanoi inSeptember to urge them to scale back their exposure in Iran. Hereturned to China this week for broad-ranging talks that arescheduled to include China's support for the U.N. sanctions onIran.
Among Paulson's efforts has been an initiative to bar Iranianstate-owned banks from international financial markets.
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