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Old 05-16-2003, 09:49 AM   #1
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France Blasts US over "Lies", "Smear Campaign"

J'accuse! Paris blasts White House over `lies'
Bush officials blamed for leaking stories Embassy decries `ugly, false' stories on links to Saddam



TIM HARPER
WASHINGTON BUREAU

WASHINGTON—Diplomacy be damned — the French have had enough.

In a charge that goes well beyond any Parisian pique over "freedom fries" or calls to boycott their wines, the French embassy here hand-delivered a letter to the White House yesterday, accusing the Bush administration of engaging in a smear campaign by leaking baseless charges about the country to friendly, usually conservative media outlets.

It cited eight specific stories, dating back to last September, accusing the French government of everything from selling Iraq high-precision switches used in detonating nuclear weapons to helping spirit out wanted members of the Saddam Hussein regime by providing them with French passports.

"So many lies have been published in the neo-conservative press in this country we felt it was time to act," said an embassy official who asked not to be named.

The embassy letter calls them "ugly and false attempts" to link France to the Saddam regime.

"What is the purpose of these false accusations against France?" Ambassador Jean-David Levitte asked.

The move was the latest — and most extraordinary — manoeuvre in an ongoing battle between the countries since France opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

"It is extraordinary," said Jeremy Shapiro, an expert in U.S.-French relations at the Washington-based Brookings Institution. "But then those stories are extraordinary."

All nations that sat out the war, including Germany, Mexico, Canada and others, have received some type of snub or punishment from U.S. President George W. Bush, but France leads the lists of supposed friends who have incurred Washington's wrath.

The French embassy confirmed yesterday American tourism is down in France.

As the two countries faced off over Iraq in the U.N. Security Council, French fries and French toast were renamed in U.S. eateries and protesters brought dogs to pro-war demonstrations with signs reading "No French in my poodle." A new slur on the streets here is to suggest something was "very French of you."

The embassy broadside yesterday comes only two weeks before Bush is to travel to France for the summit of leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized nations and three days before a scheduled visit to D-Day beaches in France by U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow.

"The surprising thing is that they tell you this is a democracy here, blah, blah, blah," the French embassy official told the Star. "But the moment you take another opinion on something they call you a traitor.

"We are not naive. We know they will immediately deny it."

And so they did.

Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he knew of no such campaign, especially out of the Pentagon. He said it is only natural the U.S. would want to work with countries that were helpful in Iraq or Afghanistan.

"I suspect you're going to see that as a pattern because those are the people you're working with," he said. "But it's not a matter that you're anti-something. It's that ... you want to look forward and be engaged with people that you're likely to be doing things with."

As he spoke, the Pentagon cut back on the number of personnel and aircraft it is sending to the prestigious Paris Air Show next month, ordering no one above the rank of colonel could attend, cutting the number of U.S. planes on display from 13 to six, and ordering them to be grounded, not participating in any aerial displays.

Two U.S. officials said the Bush administration felt it would appear unseemly for officers to be "wining and dining" and "living the good life" in Paris while troops are in danger in Iraq, Associated Press reports.

White House spokesperson Scott McClellan said a charge of an organized campaign "has no basis in fact." He referred reporters at the daily White House briefing to recent comments by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who said "the United States and France, we've been in marriage counselling for 225 years."

The French believe the final hit came in a Washington Times story last week that quoted "an anonymous American intelligence source" as saying fleeing Iraqi leaders had been provided French passports by Paris.

Rumsfeld let the story hang at his briefing that day, suggesting reporters call the French embassy, but noting "France has historically had a very close relationship with Iraq."

That type of "ambiguity" only further enraged the French, the embassy official said.

"I think they've got a case that there are some people within the U.S. government who are spreading what can best be called rumours about France," Shapiro said.

"There have a been a spate of stories quoting `senior government officials' or `senior intelligence officials. ' ... They leave an impression, at least a taste of French perfidy, but nobody picks them up."
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Old 05-16-2003, 11:14 AM   #2
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Old 05-16-2003, 03:41 PM   #3
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Bull**it. I hope this gets some press. It's about freakin time they answered back to the idiotic implications of idiots, especially Rumsfeld.
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Old 05-16-2003, 03:50 PM   #4
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After all it's only allegations coming from ..... not very smart ppl in the US Administration who behave and get offended like children in a kindergarten The very statement made once by Mr.Bush "You are either with us or against us" is a very "smart" one.
Anyway, when either Chirac or Bush's team steps down it's gonna be OK again. I will miss Colin Powell only....

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Old 05-16-2003, 03:59 PM   #5
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Originally posted by Scarletwine
Bull**it. I hope this gets some press. It's about freakin time they answered back to the idiotic implications of idiots, especially Rumsfeld.
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Old 05-16-2003, 09:37 PM   #6
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Originally posted by ALEXRUS
After all it's only allegations coming from ..... not very smart ppl in the US Administration who behave and get offended like children in a kindergarten The very statement made once by Mr.Bush "You are either with us or against us" is a very "smart" one.
Anyway, when either Chirac or Bush's team steps down it's gonna be OK again. I will miss Colin Powell only....

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Moi aussi........my parents are about to go to France. They have a huge map of France out downstairs. It's the biggest map I've ever seen in my life! It's too big.
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Old 05-16-2003, 09:51 PM   #7
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Old 05-17-2003, 01:01 AM   #8
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So was there a campaign of lies and misinformation about France?


Would this Administration participate in something like ?
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Old 05-17-2003, 12:00 PM   #9
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Well, the accusations in question are accusations that France had, shall we say uncool connections with Saddam and that's the reason, according to this, that France didn't want to go to war with Iraq. If you're going to make an accusation like this you'd better be able to prove it, and I'm not sure it's possible to really prove something like this. I don't know if the Bush Administration was responsible for the rumors. Apparently the French think it was. But the whole thing is really sticky because it goes back to whether or not you supported the war. I think reasonable people can disagree on this. Iraqis disagree with each other on it. They're torn between not liking Saddam and not liking what they call a "U.S. occupation". These are these Iraqis opinions, not mine. The Iraqis are members of a discussion group called 4Iraqis on the web.
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Old 05-17-2003, 08:51 PM   #10
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I agree...this story was a pre-emtive attempt on the part of France to minimize damage from what is to come.

U.S. probes passports as France protests 'lies'


By Bill Gertz
THE WASHINGTON TIMES



The Department of Homeland Security is investigating whether the French government provided passports to members of Saddam Hussein's regime fleeing Iraq as French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin demanded yesterday that "lies" published in the U.S. and British press stop.
The department notified Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, that its investigation is ongoing, meeting a deadline the chairman set for a response to his request for such an inquiry.
"They told us they are still investigating the matter" and had not reached any conclusions, said Raj Bharwani, a spokesman for Mr. Sensenbrenner.
Meanwhile, a member of the EU Parliament has asked for an "urgent investigation" into the matter. If the reports are true, "this would constitute an extremely serious development and would further undermine EU-U.S. relations," Struan Stevenson, the EU parliamentarian, stated in a May 13 letter to Christopher Patten, the Parliament's commissioner for external relations. French passports are regarded as documents of the European Union.
The United States began investigating reports of French collaboration with fleeing Iraqis after The Washington Times reported May 6 that an unknown number of Iraqis were given passports by French officials in Syria. The report cited U.S. intelligence officials.
The passports allowed the Iraqis to evade detection by U.S. military and intelligence agencies because they were EU travel documents.
Earlier this week, France's ambassador to the United States accused the Bush administration of starting a disinformation campaign against France.
Mr. de Villepin broadened the charge yesterday, saying the British media, too, had carried disinformation.
"There is, in the American press and in the British press, a great number of articles, information that was without foundation, untruthful," Mr. de Villepin said in an interview aired on French radio yesterday.
Paris is taking an inventory of press accounts about France, with plans to show that they are not true, he said.
Jean-David Levitte, the French ambassador to the United States, stated in a letter to Congress and the administration that the U.S. press has made "false accusations" against France. He complained in the letter about what he called the "troubling — indeed unacceptable — nature of this disinformation campaign aimed at sullying France's image and misleading the public."
The letter mentioned numerous recent press reports of French collaboration with Saddam's government, including The Times' article on passports.
Responding to the French charges, White House National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack said yesterday, "There is no such organized effort."
An administration official said the French government's anger appears to be based on worries that its sales of French products in the United States, including wine, are being hurt.
On Thursday, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said he has no knowledge of a campaign against France.
"Certainly there's no such campaign out of this building," he said. "I can't speak for the rest of the government, but I have heard of nothing like that."
He said officials at the Pentagon have had discussions about whether to scale back official representation at the Paris Air Show.
Earlier intelligence reports indicated that Iraq was able to obtain French military spare parts for its Mirage jets and Gazelle attack helicopters in violation of U.N. sanctions.
Also, intelligence officials said France attempted to conclude an oil deal with Saddam's government days before U.S. military action began March 19.
France opposed U.S. efforts to oust Saddam. French President Jacques Chirac said March 18 that "Iraq does not today present an immediate threat warranting an immediate war."
Asked recently whether Iraqis are in France or whether Paris helped officials of Saddam's regime flee Iraq, Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters May 9, "I've read those reports, but I don't have anything I can add to them."
Mr. Sensenbrenner asked the Homeland Security Department in a May 8 letter to investigate reports of the French provision of passports. He stated in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge that if the reports are confirmed, the French government should be penalized.
Mr. Sensenbrenner stated in the letter that giving travel documents to Iraqi officials could threaten U.S. national security because French passport holders are part of a visa-waiver program.
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