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French ambassador at SMU Political Forum:
Iraq must be ‘a success story’

French Ambassador to the U.S. Jean-David Levitte
  See a video of Ambassador Levitte's speech.

France is committed to helping grow a democracy in Iraq, regardless of past disagreements with the United States over the war there, French Ambassador to the United States Jean-David Levitte said Jan. 19, 2007, at SMU’s Political Forum.

“If Iraq is not a success story at the end of the day, it will be a disaster not only for the Iraqi people, but for the whole region,” he said during the discussion sponsored by the John G. Tower Center for Political Studies and the Edwin L. Cox School of Business. “A looming civil war may evolve into a regional war in the energy heart of the world economy.”

It’s up to the American people, president and Congress to decide the best way forward, he added, but France will continue to provide political and military support –– as it recently has in Afghanistan, Lebanon and Darfur –– and to uphold a partnership that dates back to America’s birth.

Beyond Iraq, three other Middle East crises –– the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Lebanon’s situation and Iran’s growing nuclear threat –– have worsened during the last five years, said Levitte, who served as French Permanent Representative to the United Nations before becoming ambassador in 2002. And while the crises are very different, Iran is a common thread, he said: It supports Hamas in the Palestinian territories, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Shiites against Sunnis in Iraq.

Here’s a sampling of the discussion at the Collins Executive Education Center:

Can the Israeli-Palestinian conflict be resolved?

During the Clinton years, we were an inch from a peace treaty; we are far away now.

But there is hope. For centuries, the Germans and the French were archenemies. We triggered two World Wars in the last century. … But today, 80 percent of the French and the Germans call each other best friends. We achieved that in only 50 years, and in the meantime, we built the European Union … So why not the Israelis and the Palestinians?

We already have the road map, which has been approved by the Israelis, Palestinians and international community. What we need is to jump-start the negotiating process; that’s one reason Condi Rice was in the region only a few days ago.

What is the situation in Lebanon after its conflict with Israel last July?

There were only losers in this war. After one month of bombardment, Hezbollah was still launching rockets against the Israeli population in the north, and 1 million Israeli people had to flee. And in one month, Israeli troops and bombs had destroyed not only Hezbollah’s land in the south … but also parts of Beirut and Lebanon’s economy. It is a disaster for Israel and Lebanon.

The U.S. and France did their best to help. Security Council Resolution 1701 … put the national army of Lebanon and a U.N. force of 15,000 well-equipped troops into the south of Lebanon and barred Hezbollah militia.  This makes a big difference, but the situation remains shaky with Hezbollah and its backer Syria.

What is the international community doing about Iran’s nuclear activities?

With our partners –– the United States, China and Russia –– the U.K., Germany and France have sent messages to the Iranian leadership: You stop; you suspend; you go back to what you have sung. We weren’t listened to …

Two weeks ago, Resolution 1737 was adopted unanimously for sanctions against Iran, and the fact that it was adopted unanimously sends a very powerful message. We don’t want to punish the Iranian people; we want to convince the leadership that the best way forward is to go back to the negotiating table. The moment they suspend enrichment, we suspend the sanctions.

To learn more about SMU’s Political Forum, visit smu.edu/tower/politicalforum.asp.

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