THE WASHINGTON TIMES 03/08/03
The U.S. government should investigate reports that France allowed Iraq to obtain military equipment in violation of U.N. sanctions, a senior Republican senator said yesterday.
“There is no need for France to sell equipment to Saddam Hussein,” said Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska. “It is international treason. … It is in violation of a U.N. resolution, and there should be no question – no question – about French officials. They should come forward quickly to deal with the story.”
Mr. Stevens made the remarks in a Senate floor speech about a report in yesterday’s editions of The Washington Times.
U.S. officials told The Times that American intelligence had detected a French company selling aircraft and helicopter parts to Iraq for its French-made Mirage jets and Gazelle attack helicopters. The sales have been carried out since at least January.
Nathalie Loiseau, press counselor at the French Embassy, yesterday repeated her denial that any military spare parts were sold to Iraq.
Bush administration officials declined to comment on reports of the sales, citing a policy of not commenting on intelligence matters.
However, State Department spokeswoman Jo-Anne Prokopowicz said the department is concerned about Iraq’s efforts to evade U.N. sanctions and import military goods.
“U.N. sanctions prohibit the transfer to Iraq of arms and material of all types, including military aircraft and spare parts,” Miss Prokopowicz said in an interview.
“We take illicit transfers to Iraq very seriously and work closely with our allies to prevent Iraq from acquiring sensitive equipment,” she said.
Mr. Stevens, who is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he planned to investigate the parts transfer.
“As a pilot and a former war pilot, this disturbs me greatly that the French would allow in any way parts for the Mirage to be exported so the Iraqis could continue to use those planes,” Mr. Stevens said. “The French make very good aircraft parts, but they should not be finding their way to Saddam Hussein at this time.”
Mr. Stevens, who also heads the defense appropriations subcommittee, said Germany, in addition to France, may have supplied military goods to Iraq.
“We intend to make some inquiries today and to find out what more we know than is disclosed in this newspaper article about the shipment of military parts from either France or Germany into Iraq,” Mr. Stevens said.
“I believe the American people need to know more about this. We need to know why two … among the best of our allies [are] standing on the sidelines as we prepare to try and destroy this regime that threatens the world,” he said.
“In my judgment, it’s something that the Senate must take very seriously if either of those governments has allowed the export of war materials to go to Iraq at this time.”
In the House, Rep. Curt Weldon, Pennsylvania Republican and a senior member on the House Armed Services Committee, said he is angered by France’s support for Iraq.
Mr. Weldon called the transfer of French military spare parts to Iraq “outrageous.”
“The French, unfortunately, are becoming less trustworthy than the Russians,” Mr. Weldon said in an interview. “It’s outrageous they would allow technology to support the jets of Saddam Hussein to be transferred.”
Mr. Weldon said he has written to the presidents of France and Germany criticizing their governments for getting U.S. military forces to lead a 1999 bombing campaign against Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, an effort that was not authorized by the United Nations.
“Milosevic is a war criminal, but Saddam is a worse war criminal, and here the French and Germans are saying resolve this peacefully,” Mr. Weldon said of Iraq.
Rep. H. James Saxton, New Jersey Republican, also criticized France for not supporting U.S. efforts in Iraq.
“The French, who have been our allies, who have received so much assistance from us over the years, and who might be expected to cooperate in a united front, failed to do so,” Mr. Saxton said yesterday. “That, I think, is inexcusable.”
Mr. Saxton last month introduced a House resolution that urged American companies, citizens and military agencies to boycott the annual Paris Air Show this summer if France does not support the United States.
The congressman also introduced legislation that would ban the Pentagon from taking part in the air show.
Mr. Saxton introduced a bill this week that would prevent French companies from receiving U.S. funds that will be spent rebuilding Iraq after Saddam is ousted.
“It seems to me that if the French don’t help us to help disarm Saddam, they should understand they’re opting out of the entire process,” said Mr. Saxton, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and chairman of the terrorism subcommittee.
House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert also is considering House action that would impose penalties on France related to wine and mineral water sales.