Chirac’s Stifling Of Dissent

It’s looking like France can’t stand criticism. At a recent meeting of the EU the French President acted with childlike petulence as leaders of several European nations challenged the French position on Iraq.

Jan Peter Balkenende, the new Dutch prime minister, underscored the hawkish line, saying the issue was Iraq’s full compliance and that it was now just a matter of weeks, not months, before the matter had to be resolved. "We have to reinforce the pressure on Iraq," he said.

Spain’s Jose Maria Aznar also called for international cohesion, pointing out that the UN had only got so far with the Iraqi dictator by threatening force.

Then, Tony Blair said his piece, deriding the 12 years of deceit by Saddam and stressing he had to come into compliance "100%".

Looking at his colleagues one by one, he told them bluntly: "There is no intelligence agency of any government around this table that does not know that the government of Iraq has weapons of mass destruction."

In a passionate conclusion, the prime minister said: "If Saddam stays, the Iraqis will pay with their lives."

The French reaction to this?

Mr Chirac, who last year put off a UK-France summit after Mr Blair was supposedly "very rude" to the septagenarian politician, let fly at the eastern European EU wannabees, who came out in print so fervently in favour of the UK-US position and against the "old Europe" axis of France and Germany.

In a few well chosen mal mots, the French premier let rip, saying: "They missed a great opportunity to shut up."

There are now several nation on both sides of the aisle who think that France is missing several opportunities to shut up before their arrogance overwhelms what little support they may have.

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