Q: Mr. President, following September 11 you were the first to go to Washington and declare your total solidarity with the United States. It was a touching moment for Americans, and for you too. Le Monde ran the headline "We are all Americans." Since then, over the course of this year, we've heard many expressions of concern regarding America, and in New York and Washington, there's a sense that feelings toward the United States in Europe and elsewhere have changed. How do you explain that? Do you agree with this analysis?

A: I would like to start by saying that personally, I'm very attached to the United States. It's a country that I love, that I admire, that I respect, naturally, and it's a country that I know rather well. Indeed, as Ms. Sciolino said earlier, when I was young I lived there several times. I stayed in the U.S. for extended periods on several occasions. I studied there; I worked there as a soda-jerk and a fork-lift driver; I was a chauffeur; I was a journalist; I had a press card, which I still have. It's a country that I know well and that I love, and I always go back with pleasure, although I always have plenty of regrets that I'm bound by official obligations and can't simply wander around.

In this context, talking about the days following September 11, when I have the privilege of meeting you, I want to say that my first thoughts when that tragedy struck were for the victims and their families. And they were strong thoughts. It's true that when the tragedy took place, my first reaction was to say: "We are all Americans." And I want to say today that those feelings haven't disappeared; on the contrary, they've grown even stronger with the anniversary, and that my feelings of admiration--naturally for all those who were directly affected but also for all the civilian and military authorities, beginning with President Bush--those feelings of admiration for the courage and determination we saw remain very strong today. Now, you certainly watch French television and read French papers, but beyond that, something inside the French people was touched, and that hasn't changed. And that feeling goes far beyond any criticism--a subject we will of course get back to later. It demonstrates once again that when the chips are down, the French and Americans have always stood together and have never failed to be there for one another. That's been the case since Yorktown and it still holds true today. That's the reality.

I would add that all this is framed by the context of terrorism and its changing face, and that France is utterly and unreservedly determined to fight against terrorism and the proliferation that facilitates modern terrorist initiatives. Let's be completely clear about this.

So you say to me: "Yes, but what about the criticism?" Well yes, of course, there has always been criticism, thank goodness. You know, one should never confuse friends and courtiers, neither in private life nor in international life. They are two different things, and it's better to have a few friends than lots of courtiers. And let me tell you, France is one of America's friends, and not necessarily one of its courtiers. So when it has something to say, it says it.

Q: September 11 led the United States to formulate a new doctrine over the past year that differs quite radically from the previous doctrine. Mr. Bush and his administration have declared that to fight against the threat of terrorism that you mentioned, Mr. President, a doctrine of preemption must be adopted. In other words, sometimes it might be necessary to take preventive action, for example in the case of Iraq. What do you have to say about this doctrine, which some consider very dangerous and destabilizing?

A: I'll be very frank with you. As I've already told President Bush, I have great reservations about this doctrine. As soon as one nation claims the right to take preventive action, other countries will naturally do the same.

And what would you say in the entirely hypothetical event that China wanted to take preemptive action against Taiwan, saying that Taiwan was a threat? How would the Americans, the Europeans and others react? Or what if India decided to take preventive action against Pakistan, or vice versa? Or Russia against Chechnya or somewhere else? What would we say? I think this is an extraordinarily dangerous doctrine that could have tragic consequences. Preventive action can be undertaken if it appears necessary, but it must be taken by the international community, which today is represented by the United Nations Security Council.

n any case, regardless of the initiatives and changes in doctrine that could conceivably be instituted by the United States, we must not forget that prevention and dissuasion still remain the motivating factors for peace in the world.

Q: In the specific case of Saddam Hussein and Iraq, today, how would you like to proceed, Mr. President? What is the best way to be sure that Saddam Hussein doesn't develop further weapons of mass destruction, and to achieve the stated goal of the administration, which is a change of regime in Iraq? And do you share that objective?

A: I don't have to tell you that of course I condemn the Iraqi regime. For all the reasons we're aware of, whether they be the dangers it might pose for the region or the tragedy it constitutes for the Iraqi people, which is being held hostage by it. It is my great hope to see a regime in Iraq that would be democratic, human and concerned with maintaining good relations with its neighboring countries. From that to the particular problem of the reaction regarding Iraq, we're always talking about evidence, but I still haven't seen any. People talk to me about it, but I still haven't...

Q: You haven't seen any?

A: I'm not saying it doesn't exist, I'm simply saying that I haven't seen any.

Second, I'm utterly opposed to unilateralism in the modern world. I believe that the modern world must be coherent and consequently, if a military action is to be undertaken, it must be the responsibility of the international community, via a decision by the Security Council. Now, the Security Council has decided that Iraq must not have weapons of mass destruction; it did not say that a regime change was necessary there. So if the objective is to prevent Iraq from having weapons of mass destruction, we have to go along with what the United Nations has done, i.e., impose the return of inspectors in Iraq without restrictions or preconditions, under the responsibility of the UN secretary-general. If Iraq accepts, great. If Iraq refuses--and to put it frankly, not much has been done to make it accept--if it refuses, then it's up to the Security Council to deliberate and decide what must be done and notably whether a military operation should be undertaken or not.

You know, on September 11, I happened to be traveling in France; I was in the town of Rennes, in Brittany. When the first tower was hit, I was about to step up to a podium to give an important speech, and there were a lot of people there. Naturally, I immediately cut short my trip and jumped back on the plane. I returned to Paris and immediately summoned the Prime Minister and other relevant ministers to the Elysée. I immediately contacted President Bush's representatives, who obviously had other things to do beside making phone calls, and I immediately got Blair and Schroeder on the phone. But most important--and if I'm telling you all this, it's not to give you my life story--I immediately contacted our ambassador to the United Nations in New York, to ask him to prepare a resolution. As you know, the UN Security Council has a rotating presidency that each member holds for one month, and it just so happened that on September 11, the French held the presidency. So I called our Ambassador to the UN to ask him to immediately prepare, in cooperation with the Americans and the others, a resolution recognizing that the United States was in a situation of legitimate self-defense. I think I was the first to say that the Security Council had to recognize immediately that the United States had been attacked, that it was in a situation of legitimate self-defense and that consequently, it had the perfect right to respond, and others with it.

Then, with the action so resolutely and courageously carried out by President Bush, we succeeded in building a coalition against terrorism bringing together practically all the countries of the world, and notably all the Arab and Muslim countries. Which was very important.

Now we must be very careful. This coalition remains necessary to fight against terrorism. Necessary. Especially given the currents of opposition to Western countries which are becoming more and more prevalent in poor and emerging countries. This coalition must be managed cautiously. That's why I think everything should done to ensure that the coalition isn't jeopardized by an act that doesn't have the approval of the international community and which would run the risk of undermining the coalition's solidarity, notably in the Arab and Muslim countries. We have to be a little careful.

Q: Mr. President, Mr. Bush called you last Friday, I believe, two days ago, to begin the consultation process. Can you tell us a little about what transpired in that conversation, and whether you see it as a good first step in the consultation process you're hoping for?

A: I don't know what's customary in the United States, but I personally never comment on telephone conversations, especially when I wasn't the one to make the call. It was President Bush who called me, remember, and I never comment on conversations I have with foreign leaders. All I can tell you is that our conversation was extremely cordial and warm; there's not shadow of a doubt about that. We even talked about his parents, as we always do, because I have great respect for them, I know them well and I have great affection for his father and mother. And so we talked about that. But all I can tell you is that we had a warm, pleasant conversation. That's it.

Q: Do you have the impression that the United States is indeed convinced of the importance of properly managing this coalition, of initiating a very broad process to gain the approval of the international community?

A: I believe that President Bush--and I'm not being indiscreet here--I understood that President Bush wanted to initiate a very broad international cooperation. At the level of the heads of state and government, but also at the level of government ministers and experts. And I believe I understood that a certain number of American experts would visit foreign countries to explain their point of view. Now we are waiting--and I personally am waiting--with great interest, of course, to hear President Bush's speech before the UN on September 12, which will no doubt shed light on things. It will be an important speech.

Q: Mr. President, can France, or can you personally, play a special role to conduct negotiations with Germany for example or with other Europeans, or with the Arab countries or even Iraq, to build a bridge between the United States and the Arab world, between the Muslim world and the European world?

A: We have good relations with the Arab world. And relations with Iraq are still very difficult. For one reason, among others: There's a feeling that Saddam Hussein is cut off, and information doesn't get to him. I had a long talk here in Paris with Kofi Annan two days ago, and we were discussing his mission to Baghdad in 1998. Obviously, he had a lot of trouble reaching Saddam; I'm afraid he's completely cut off. Some people thought that Kofi Annan could have undertaken another mission. Experience proves that that's difficult. Important subjects are dealt with exclusively by Saddam, and I think no one really has any influence over him, which is dangerous.

Q: Yes, exactly.

A: Because when you take a look at all the decisions he's made over the past 15 years, they haven't always been the best ones.

Q: Do you consider him a very dangerous man today? For the region? For the world?

A: I find that he is especially dangerous to his own people, who are living under extraordinarily difficult circumstances, both on the social and humanitarian levels. That said, he clearly has money. And when a man like that has money, you might wonder what he's going to do with it. So there isn't the slightest doubt that we must pay very close attention.

Q: Do you see a link between him and terrorism? Between Iraq and terrorism today?

A: Between Iraq and al Qaeda?

Q: Yes, specifically, or beyond. In general, does he support international terrorism?

A: No evidence has been found so far--or at least has been made official--of ties between Iraq and international terrorism, and particularly al Qaeda. So I don't know, but for the time being, there's no evidence, to my knowledge.

The U.S. and French intelligence services cooperate very closely and effectively. And I appreciated the fact that three times over the past two or three months, President Bush publicly paid tribute to that cooperation, to France's intelligence services and to cooperation between France and the United States. Of course, that doesn't mean that the United States tells us everything it has, obviously! That's normal. But there's excellent cooperation and our intelligence services are providing a maximum amount of information--discreetly but effectively. In any case, President Bush emphasized it spontaneously and publicly three times, so I can say it here. We have no proof that Iraq is involved in international terrorism or al Qaeda in particular.

Q: With regard to al Qaeda, Mr. President, do you have any indication as to whether Osama bin Laden is dead or alive?

A: None. None at all.

Q: And what about the current state of al Qaeda? Is it still a dangerous force, despite the actions of the past year?

A: Yes, I think it remains a dangerous force. And during the past few days, there have been a whole series of attacks in Afghanistan. One might assume there's a link between al Qaeda, or rather al Qaeda networks, and those attacks. There was another one this morning, I heard on the radio. A dozen dead or injured, it seems, not in Kabul, in another city (Khost).

Q: Let's talk a little about France and threats here. Islam is the second-largest religion in France now. Do you see that as a potential threat to your country's security?

A: No, not at all. We have about four million Muslims in France. Many of them are French nationals, a few are foreign, mostly from Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia--i.e., essentially North African--with a few from Black Africa. But they are perfectly integrated in France and practice their Muslim faith undisturbed, when they practice at all. We have no Muslim problem and we are making an effort not to have one. We have other problems, because we have some rough neighborhoods. In those neighborhoods, there are many young people whom we call beurs, whose families come from Arab countries; we also have many social problems that have not been effectively dealt with. But we have no concerns as far as terrorism is concerned, although of course, we have been victims of terrorism in the past. Islam doesn't worry us, per se; what worries us are Islamic terrorist networks from abroad. That's different.

Q: You're not afraid, you're not concerned that this community could be radicalized by events in the Mideast? Especially the young people? With the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there have been incidents here involving synagogues that had a great impact in New York and in the United States.

A: An impact that I would venture to describe as ridiculous.

Q: Is it exaggerated?

A: Yes. We have four million Muslims and the second-largest Jewish community in the world, following the United States, without counting Israel, of course. The second-largest Jewish community in the world. To imagine that France, the very first country to recognize the rights of Jews, could be anti-Semitic is propaganda, not reality. There have been a few incidents, that's true, but we responded immediately--the previous government, Mr. Jospin's government first, and then the current government headed by Mr. Raffarin--with great firmness. In no case were there any anti-Semitic demonstrations in France.

Now a campaign led by certain American extremist groups has tried to denounce anti-Semitism in France for political reasons and political ulterior motives. The entire Jewish community here is represented by an organization known as the CRIF; some 25 members, feeling very troubled by all this, went on a tour of the United States. The Who's Who of the Jewish Community--from right, left and center--went to the United States to say there's no anti-Semitism in France and that this campaign is scandalous. Rabbi Sitruck, our Grand Rabbi, who is a highly respected and highly respectable figure here, and furthermore is a very good friend of mine, issued strong statements on this point. Shimon Peres came here and wanted to make an official declaration while standing next to me, before the press, in the form of a press briefing that in the end didn't take place, solely to say that this American campaign was scandalous and did not represent reality.

And French Jews were very shocked by this allegation, very shocked.

You know, this is one of the Jewish High Holy Days, the holiday of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, so the day before yesterday (since yesterday was the Sabbath), I called the Grand Rabbi simply to wish him a happy new year. We're very good friends and we talked for a few minutes; each year I wish him a happy new year and he told me once again how shocked he was by this campaign. He said, "It's getting better," but he was still very shocked by it.

Q: But who was responsible for the incidents that occurred?

A: The incidents, yes, there were indeed incidents. All the incidents that took place, if you will, turned out to be perpetrated by beurs--young people of Arab descent, as I mentioned before--who live in the rougher neighborhoods outside the city centers, and they were all connected to international issues. That is true.

Naturally, I don't have to tell you that I condemn attacks in the strongest possible terms. We condemned them, the two successive prime ministers condemned them. We are very, very attentive and when the new interior minister was appointed, my priority instruction to him was to be excessively attentive to any sort of racial, religious and in particular anti-Semitic attacks, of course.

Q: Mr. President, I wanted to tell you something in the spirit of friendship. In my opinion, perhaps there was a break, a rift in perception between France and the United States with regard to these issues. I'd like to say it with all my heart, really. There was a break between France and the United States because in my opinion, it's not just a campaign by extremist groups in the United States who think there's anti-Semitism here in France.

Even intelligent people in the United States, even my friends think it's true. I don't know if you share this opinion. Yesterday, I got a phone call from New York from one of my friends who is Jewish. Her daughter is here, she's a student at George Washington University, she lives in the Marais and she saw anti-Semitic graffiti. Her mother called to ask me to invite her daughter over because she's afraid. There is fear, and that's why I'd like to ask you what France can do to eliminate feelings that really exist.

A: France can't do anything. Naturally France, along with other European countries, can do its best to fight against any form of anti-Semitism and racism, but it can't do anything about feelings. In the United States, for starters, a certain number of declarations were made, notably by the Israeli Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs--and condemned by Shimon Peres--proclaiming France to be anti-Semitic. Why? Because of his subsequent affirmation that "French Jews should come to Israel, they'll be safer there." Naturally, it's more in his interest to say such things about France than about another country, because we have the second-largest Jewish community--you therefore have a bigger chance of scaring people into coming. The result was that a few American-Jewish groups, and one in particular that is fortunately very marginal, published scandalous articles and ads in the newspapers, which you certainly saw. One in particular said that the most widely read book in France was Mein Kampf, and that it was the top best-seller in France. That's craziness. Honestly, have you ever seen a copy of Mein Kampf in France? Once such stories take hold, what do you want us to do? Nothing. I prefer to ignore them...for now. I deplore them and I ignore them.

Q: Mr. President, are you concerned about the Moussaoui case? In a way, he represents the kind of person who went to school in France but who got radicalized, one of those sort of social dropouts from the neighborhoods you mentioned who end up going to Afghanistan to look for a mission in life. And now he is where he is. Can you say something about the Moussaoui case? What are your feelings?

A: Well, Moussaoui is a terrorist. There are a lot of them, of all nationalities. This one happens to be a French national of Moroccan origin, and it will be up to the courts to make a decision. I don't think you can hold him up as an example. But on the other hand, it is creating a problem between France and the United States. Now the cooperation between our countries is absolutely exemplary, as President Bush stressed, with regard to the investigations following the attacks of September 11. There is excellent judicial cooperation. You know that France worked hard within the EU to create a European arrest warrant to strengthen the fight against terrorism. We are very much on the leading edge when it comes to these subjects.

In all of these areas, then, following the attacks of September 11, there has been very good cooperation on investigations. Where we have a little problem is that the charges against Moussaoui carry the death penalty. Now, our cooperation must respect the legal order of both the United States and France, and more broadly Europe. The fundamental principles of European law, as enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, prohibit the death penalty and any act that could lead to it.

We are trying as hard as we can to cooperate to the fullest in the particular case of Moussaoui--particular because it involves the death penalty. But in order to remain in compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights, we must be sure not to take any action that could result in the death penalty. It's not for Moussaoui himself. We sent the French Consul over to see him because he had a right to consular protection. Things went very, very badly and we never tried again. He's very closed. So Moussaoui represents a particular problem, if you see what I mean.

Q: Mr. President, let's return to Iraq for a moment, if you don't mind. This weekend we've seen two images: the image of Bush and Blair in Washington saying we must stand firm, we must act against Saddam Hussein on one hand, and on the other, you and Mr. Schroeder in Hannover. It gives the impression of a sort of division among allies. Do these images correspond to reality, for you? I know there are differences between you and the German chancellor, but do we have Germany and France on one side and Great Britain and the United States on the other?

A: First of all, images always exaggerate, by definition. I'd also like to say that it isn't so much "Schroeder and me" on one side and "Bush and Blair" on the other; what I'm seeing right now is "Bush and Blair" on one side and everyone else on the other. Which is a little bit different. To my knowledge, the EU has clearly come out against any unilateral action. Starting from there, everyone can have his own position. For Gerhard Schroeder, naturally the upcoming elections play a role--elections are a little like policemen: everyone behaves when they're around--so he has to be careful. So he took a categorical position and said: whatever the Security Council's decision, Germany will not take part in this action. I didn't go so far, for a simple reason: as France is a member of the Security Council, it cannot weigh in ahead of time. I can't say both "the Security Council must decide" and then, once it has decided, "I'll do what I want." That wouldn't be logical. So naturally, I'm in a different position from that of the Chancellor.

I also had a very long talk with Tony Blair, the morning before yesterday, Friday morning. He called me before leaving for the U.S. I don't have any comment on what we said to each other, but we did mention the possibility of presenting a resolution. I'm in complete agreement with the idea of a Security Council resolution; there should be a Security Council resolution on the return of the inspectors. I totally agree with that. Then, if the inspectors aren't allowed to return, there should be a second Security Council resolution saying whether or not there are grounds for an intervention. Based on that resolution, France will formulate its definitive position. That's what I mean. But I'm very concerned about the consequences an intervention will have on the international coalition against terrorism, which could burst apart. And we need it. On the other hand, the Arab and Muslim countries are equally necessary.

Q: If Iraq refuses to allow the return of the inspectors, Mr. President, despite this resolution you foresee, what would France's position be?

A: I already told you: France is not indicating in advance what its position might be as long as the Security Council hasn't expressed itself. Everything will depend on the nature of the resolution that will be presented. As usual, we will help draft the resolution.

Q: You mean the first resolution on the return of the inspectors?

A: No, not on the return of the inspectors, there's no problem with that. I mean the second resolution concerning a possible attack on Iraq. I won't indicate what France's position will be in advance; it will depend on the nature of the resolution.

Q: And the first step is to see if the inspectors can be successfully returned to Iraq?

A: In my opinion, that's the obligatory route.

Q: But Mr. President, can I put the question a little differently? Under what circumstances would France support the use of force against Iraq? To allow the inspectors to return or to oust Saddam from power? France is a sovereign nation and you have policies independent of the Security Council.

A: Yes, I'm not sure I interpreted your question properly. Our position is that what's at stake today is not a change in the Iraqi regime. We can hope for such a change, we would like to see it, naturally, but you need a little order to manage the world's affairs. You need a few principles and a little order. And the problem today is to find out whether there are weapons of mass destruction. To find out, you have to go see. To go see, you need inspectors who can move freely, without constraints. That's the first objective. If it's accomplished, that's the end of it. The Security Council and the international community have never been seized by the desire to change the regime in Iraq. Because there are lots of countries whose regimes we'd like to see changed. So if we start this now, where will it lead?

Let me tell you something. I'm worried, as I've told President Bush several times. I'm worried, and all the Europeans are worried by the rise in anti-Western sentiments throughout the world, in the poor countries and the emerging countries. Because of my great age, alas, I've known a lot of countries, lots of heads of state; I have relationships based on trust and friendship with many countries, often very long-standing ones, and they speak more freely to me than to some others. I know their countries, in general, whether we're talking about Africa or Asia. Latin America a bit less--mainly Africa and Asia.

I've been struck, in recent years, but especially over the past one or two years, by the rise in anti-Western sentiments among the public in those countries. That their leaders don't dare say when they're meeting with President Bush or Colin Powell. Because they need them, they don't dare tell them these things. And the truth is that there is a very, very strong upsurge, and that's troubling, extremely troubling, very troubling. Now we've worked very hard to forge an anti-terrorism coalition. Fighting terrorism effectively using all means--the military, the police, the courts, etc.--was a priority. And it worked.

My first conclusion: Let's preserve this coalition. We need it. Second, since we're all so eager to tell the entire world how to do things, why not create a second coalition: a coalition against poverty, a coalition for the environment--because the environment is on a tragic path--a coalition to resolve problems, conflicts and crises that exist more or less throughout the world and which we could resolve too if we were a little more generous and more committed. It would also be a very effective way to fight terrorism, and it would be a very effective way to prove ourselves worthy of our humanity.

Q: You spoke of anti-Western sentiments, Mr. President, but aren't we rather talking about out-and-out anti-Americanism?

A: It begins with anti-Americanism and then it becomes anti-Westernism.

Q: Should the resolution on the return of the inspectors include a date for their return, an ultimatum?

A: Yes, of course.

Q: Do you have a date in mind?

A: No, it's a matter of a week or two or three; something very soon.

Q: Mr. Cheney said last week that in any case, the inspections weren't worth anything.

A: Yes, but in that case, you might as well simply say that Mr. Cheney is going off to fight his war all by himself. If we explain that inspections aren't worth anything, why should they accept? If you tell Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi leadership, if not the Iraqi people, that we want to attack them, and that in any case the inspectors are useless, of course they'll say no to the inspectors. It was a very curious response.

Q: Does this kind of approach worry you?

A: I'm not sure it's all that troubling as long as it isn't President Bush's approach. I didn't know President Bush before he was elected, and actually, I think I was the first leader to meet him, because he very kindly came to see me at the French Embassy the day before it was officially announced that he was elected. I was in Washington and was leaving in the evening, and he very kindly called to ask, "Can I come say hello to you at the Embassy?" It must have been his father who told him to do that. He came to see me, we spent a very nice, very pleasant hour. He was accompanied only by Dr. Rice. What I'm saying is, I expect he will make his own decision. What Mr. Cheney says doesn't interest me, but what Mr. Bush says does interest me, because I hear Mr. Cheney and Mr. Powell saying different things.

Q: So the speech this Thursday is very important.

A: Yes, very important. I tend to trust President Bush, a priori; I'm calmly awaiting his speech on September 12.

Q: Mr. President, let's change the subject a little.

A: Don't underestimate the importance of building a real coalition against poverty and against the degradation of the planet. What we're doing, and the lack of sufficient action against crises and conflicts in the world, is a tragedy.

Q: Mr. President, the Cold War is over--fortunately, on one hand but on the other, transatlantic relations could be affected because at least there used to be a very clear objective that no longer exists. Are you very concerned about the future of transatlantic relations? There are many points on which Americans and Europeans don't see eye to eye. Do you feel that the transatlantic relationship, which has been so important since the Second World War, is weakening?

A: Let me repeat: For us, the transatlantic relationship does not date back to the Second World War, but is much, much older. I don't see any deterioration, and I don't fear any deterioration, quite simply because while our interests may be different--and we have the right to defend all of our interests; in such areas as agriculture, steel, the International Criminal Court and the Kyoto Protocol, we see that Europeans and Americans have different motives and interests--while we have different interests, our differences aren't core differences.

We respect the same values and have the same sense of history. Consequently, nothing could break the transatlantic bond, at least in the foreseeable future. In my opinion, there's nothing that could break it or even fray it, because it's a natural bond.

Of course, like all families, we have our arguments. All good families argue, that's normal, you can't have one person who imposes his will on the whole family. Nevertheless, when there's a problem, the whole family comes together. Look at what goes on in Sicily.

Q: Yes, that's true.

A: It's the same thing. "We are all Sicilians!"

Q: Excuse me, Mr. President, but I'd like to better understand France's position on Iraq.

A: Iraq? Did I explain myself so badly?

Q: Can France, can the world co-exist with Saddam Hussein in power? Are there conditions in place for co-existing with that man, whom you know personally?

A: Who, Saddam Hussein? I haven't seen him for a long time....

Q: Since 1966?

A: 1975. He's probably changed since. So have I, unfortunately! Let me repeat: When Saddam Hussein and his regime are a danger to the outside, that's when we have to act. But first we must be sure there's a danger. If he's not a danger, however, and he's only Iraq's problem, then it's not our problem. Because, you understand, Tony Blair said the same thing to me about Mugabe in Zimbabwe. If we start saying "we can't accept...," soon half the countries of the world will be fighting the other half. I have no sympathy for either Saddam Hussein or Mugabe, nor a few others, I'll tell you that right off. But we need a world that evolves in a safe and balanced way, which means trying not to destabilize it.

Q: Yes. Have you read Mr. Kissinger's essay that says almost the same thing? Can I read it, because he talks about the Treaty of Westphalia and says the same thing you do, but in different words.

A: He's a very intelligent man.

Q: I'd like to know if by any chance you share his feelings.

A: I don't know what he says.

Q: " Making a regime change an objective for military intervention calls into question the international system that was established in 1648 by the Treaty of Westphalia, following the Wars of Religion, whose founding principle was that of non-intervention into the domestic affairs of other States. Thus the notion of preemption runs counter to modern international law, which accepts the use of force only in the event of legitimate self-defense, and against recognized, not potential, threats. "

A: Yes, he's right of course, but you have to distinguish between non-intervention and non-involvement. Non-intervention is indisputable. You can't intervene on your own initiative, it has to be approved by the international community. On the other hand, there's a major debate on non-involvement, and I think that nowadays, involvement can be justified. When you send inspectors to Iraq, if you send them, you are getting involved in Iraqi affairs. You make no intervention, you get involved. Kissinger, however, seems to be saying that based on historical precedent and the Treaty of Westphalia, there should be neither intervention nor involvement. I agree that there shouldn't be a doctrine of intervention. I do not support the "preventive" doctrine but on the other hand, I believe that the doctrine of non-involvement is no longer suited to modern times. Involvement should therefore be accepted.

Q: For the past few months there has been new talk in Washington about the need to remake the Middle East, that is, to re-create it. It is being said that the fact that there are only autocratic regimes in that part of the world is no longer acceptable, and that if a federal democratic regime were to be established in Iraq, it could be a catalyst for a whole series of changes that would open up that part of the world. It's a very bold vision, certainly a very dangerous one. What do you think? Does this need exist?

A: If we want to intervene in order to change countries' political systems, then we're in another civilization. Or in any case, we're not in a civilization organized like today's. I think such speculation is very dangerous, very dangerous indeed. You get started and you have no idea where you will end up. And think of the reaction on the street, among the people. If, for example, you want to change the monarchy in Morocco or Jordan, you'll have a lot of trouble with the people of those countries.

Q: Do these regimes, such as they are today, indirectly nurture terrorism?

A: No.

Q: When there are many alienated young people who don't live in democratic societies...

A: No, what nurtures terrorism, what creates fertile ground for mobilizing minorities in favor of terrorism is poverty as well as increasing attacks on the planet, which is being increasingly felt, notably by young people as something dangerous and unacceptable. That's what is creating that sort of fertile ground , it isn't a monarchy.

Q: We didn't talk about the Mideast problems.

A: The Mideast? I greatly appreciated Mr. Bush's speech on June 24. There was an important rapprochement and you may have noted the resolutions adopted by the EU, notably at the initiative of the Danish presidency a few days ago.

It's quite obvious that nothing can justify terrorism, and that it must be combated as firmly as possible. There's no need to go back to this point. Second, it is obvious that the Palestinians must have a regime. We could at least exert a firm and friendly influence on the creation of a regime that fulfills the requirements of democracy, because it is based on democracy.

I think we could envision an objective a Palestinian regime similar to current European regimes. They are ready for that. I mean with a president elected by parliament, for example, but power exercised by a prime minister and a government based on a parliamentary majority. It should be possible to have such an objective. It would be necessary to hold elections, although Mr. Sharon no longer wants elections. It is sure that today, if presidential elections were held, Arafat would be elected with 90 percent of the votes, probably. And if there were legislative elections, the extremists would win a very large majority. And thus, nothing would be gained. So let us ask whether it wouldn't be useful to have a constitutional reform within the framework of the current parliament that would organize power with a president elected by parliament--that would be Arafat--and power in the hands of a prime minister, to be designated, and a majority that could exist in the Palestinian parliament of today.

It's one path but at the moment, I think there's no path at all. It's obviously dangerous.

The main responsibility is naturally that of the United States, because they are the only ones to have a tiny bit of influence over the Israeli authorities.

The Israeli people have withdrawn into fear because of the attacks. That's understandable. To think that parents there now put their children in different schools because if there's an attack, they don't want to lose two at once... So they've withdrawn into themselves. Naturally, such conditions aren't favorable to dialogue.

The Palestinians themselves are humiliated, miserable and Kofi Annan told me yesterday that he was very afraid of the epidemics because the garbage can no longer be picked up. There's no food, the water is more and more polluted. There's more and more poverty, and he said to me the day before yesterday that he greatly feared the onset of epidemics and that he had alerted the Israeli authorities, telling them: Be careful, if an epidemic breaks out all of a sudden, you too will be threatened, and moreover, you will be responsible.

So here's another system that can't work for much longer. We are proposing an international conference to try at least to put people around the same table, but I recognize that there's not much enthusiasm for such a conference. Europe could provide a significant amount of aid if the system were unblocked, but the system can only be unblocked at the initiative of the United States. And that poses problems for the U.S.

Q: And is it possible to go to Baghdad without resolving the problems of Jerusalem?

A: It won't make things easier, because if Baghdad is attacked, the Arab world and, I wouldn't say to the same degree, Arab governments won't be happy. It won't make things easier in the Middle East.

Q: Your foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, left the possibility of a military attack against Baghdad open if by any chance the Security Council were to decide that Iraq...

A: But all solutions are possible, I'm not going to make a preliminary judgment.

Q: Even military solutions?

A: Nothing is impossible if it is decided on by the international community on the basis of unquestionable proof. For the time being, we have neither proof nor a decision by the international community.

I'd like to add another point. I said earlier just how much I believe the problem of the world in the years to come is the fight against poverty, the fight against the degradation of the planet, the fight against conflicts and crises that exist to some degree throughout the world, because that is injustice--it isn't worthy of men.

But all that also supposes a second need that I also emphasize a lot, which is cultural dialogue. We are going to make a new proposal at UNESCO, which I hope will be adopted. We can't all shut ourselves up indefinitely inside our little towers and never talk to one another. It doesn't work. Today's world is no longer like that and, you know, the history of civilizations shows that the law of the strongest never worked for very long, ever. Not since the beginning of organized civilization. On the other hand, cultural dialogue, a dialogue between civilizations, the respect for others are without question a way to resolve problems. It may not be 100 percent effective at least it's the most natural. We're in a situation today in which dialogue no longer exists. People are treated very badly. For example, to say that all Muslims are terrorists is nonsense, and it's extremely dangerous. We must find the way back to a dialogue among cultures and civilizations. We must talk. We too have plenty of things to learn from others.

Q: And France has a very important role to play in that regard. Even in Afghanistan, France re-opened cultural dialogue.

A: We've had a cultural dialogue with the Afghans for 150 years.

Q : How do you see the situation in Afghanistan ?

A : I am very worried about Afghanistan. There is not yet cohesiveness and the many warlords are well armed to fight against Al Qaeda. Now they have taken their arms and are not fighting against Al Qaeda and are fighting among themselves.

Q: Thank you very much, Mr. President.

A: Thank you.

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