What did Chiraq say about a veto on war?

He was, in fact, saying that no matter which of two hypothetical outcomes of a vote on the second Security Council ‘ultimatum’ might occur, France did not at that time accept that an ultimatum was necessary.

QUESTION — The Americans are saying the opposite. Colin Powell thinks he will get [nine votes needed for a majority on the Security Council]

THE PRESIDENT — I’m telling you what I feel. I firmly believe, this evening, that there isn’t a majority of nine votes in favour of that resolution including an ultimatum and thus giving the international green light to war.

QUESTION — In other words, France wouldn’t need to use her veto?

THE PRESIDENT — In this scenario, that’s exactly right. In this scenario, France will, of course, take a stand. There will be nations who will vote no, including France. Some will abstain. But, in any case, there won’t, in this scenario, be a majority. So there won’t be a veto problem.

QUESTION — And if the opposite happens?

THE PRESIDENT — Then, the second scenario: what I believe this evening to be the views of a number of people change. If this happens, there may indeed be a majority of nine votes or more in favour of the new resolution, the one authorizing war, to put things simply. If that happens, France will vote no. But there is one possibility, what’s called exercising a veto, it’s when one of the five permanent members — the United States, Britain, Russia, China and France — votes no, and then even if there is a majority in favour of it, the resolution isn’t adopted. That’s what’s called exercising a veto.

QUESTION — And, this evening, this is your position in principle?

THE PRESIDENT — My position is that, regardless of the circumstances, France will vote no because she considers this evening {emphasis added} that there are no grounds for waging war in order to achieve the goal we have set ourselves, i.e. to disarm Iraq

QUESTION — So, exercising this veto — in fact, some people call the veto the diplomatic atom bomb —, some people, including some members of the governing party, have said this would be firing a bullet in our allies’ back…

THE PRESIDENT — Don’t let yourself by influenced by polemics. I repeat: war is always the worst solution. And France which isn’t a pacifist country, who doesn’t refuse war on principle, who is in fact proving this by currently being the leading contributor of troops to NATO, particularly in the Balkans, France isn’t a pacifist country. France considers that war is the final stage of a process, that all possible means must be used to avoid it because of its tragic consequences. (…)

Extract from an interview with Jacques Chirac on French national television, 10 March, 2003.

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