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So, our prez Jacques Chirac (this is official site not, you idiot!) talks to le peuple tonight. It's not something usual on this side of the Atlantic, so what's going on? Is he going to declare war on the US or what? Don't hold your breath, here is a transcription of the main bits for our international readers:

"The main question is: in what world do we want to live? One that is multipolar, democratic, where Europe and the UN play their role, with good crisis management, respect of each other, dialogue, without conflicts.

Iraq does have weapons of mass destruction, and its regime is undoubtedly dangerous. It was essential to disarm this country et destroy its arsenal of mass destruction. There are two options: war or control under constraint of the UN. The Security Council a voted unanimously for the peaceful option of inspections. The inspection plan which has last from 91 to 98 has detroyed more weapons than the entire Gulf war, and has permitted to eradicate Iraq's nuclear program. Hans Blix esimates that with better cooperation from Iraq, we can achieve a complete disarmament. Cooperation has improved and the inspectors are able to pursue their work efficiently. However, Iraq is not sufficiently cooperative, but this is up to the inspectors to tell the UN so, not to us (or any other country). If the inspections aren't efficient, then the inspectors have to inform the SC. Today, the inspection process is working, and we must continue this way.

[Along with an allusion that North Koeran regime is in no way better than Iraq's] Other objectives, like a change of regime, would have deserved a discussion between the SC members. The only objective we have discussed has been disarmament.

Considering the dramatic impact of a war on the world (death, destruction) I have proposed that the next SC meeting be held by countries or gouvernements leaders. I will go there if a majority of them agree with this proposition.

Some consider that we have to move fast with different methods. They are proposing a second resolution that will set an ultimatum. We move from an inspection system to a pre-declared war. France will oppose such resolution. My feeling is that this resolution, right now, does not have a majority (9 votes) behind it. In this hypothesis, there is no veto issue. If, on the contrary, there is a majority of 9 votes in favor of a resolution allowing a war, France will vote against it (which corresponds to a veto, since France is a permanent member of the SC). France will vote no either way, because it considers that it is not necessary to start a war to desarm Iraq.

France is not a pacifist country that would refuse war by principle (look at our involvement in the Balkans). But France considers that all options must be exercised before war. Since the inception of the SC, France has used its veto right 18 times before, the UK 32 times and the US 77 times! It is not exceptional. France is also not an anti-american country. We have two centuries of common history and we have always got together in difficult times. There is no risk that our respective people get angry.

If the international community does not agree (with war), it would set a unfortunate precedent. The US have deployed 200,000 men in the Gulf, and they have won already! It is probable that Iraq would not have complied without this pressure from the US. The US have therefore achieved their objective of disarming Iraq, in forcing its cooperation with the inspectors.

The American are our allies. We do not agree with an immediate war in Iraq, but we remain allies.

It is rare that results of a war are positive. Deaths, country chaos, difficult return to a calm state, a fragilized region that does not need another war. Reconstruction will be necessary, materially and politically. This reconstruction must be conduced by the UN. It's inconceivable that it could be done by a single country. But I'm focusing on the principal objective: disarmament, by peaceful means, which transparency will eventually lead to a change of regime.

I don't want to polemicize with the Americans. We are not in conflict, but there is a problem of principles, a moral problem. France, according to it traditions, will avoid war as long as it's avoidable.

Europe [construction] has always been a difficult journey, but we have progressed whatever the difficulties. We have always grown stronger after facing challenges. We clearly have difficulties over diplomatic issues, as this Iraqi affair has demonstrated. The crisis that Europe is facing because of its divergences over Iraq, will not divide Europe, which will grow even stronger after this crisis has ended.

It is certain that the first winners of this war will be those who want a frontal choc bewteen cultures and religions. This war will fuel terrorism. France has been badly hurt by terrorism, and by experience it is more cautious than others. The international cooperation against terrorism must be reinforced. France is not isolated on this point.

The current economical doom is somehow linked to the present political climate.

Even if there was only one chance out of a thousand, or even a million, this would not undermine a bit my determination to avoid a war."

[ Disclaimer: that's Jacques Chirac words, not mine, don't shoot the messenger please. Using my best coined sentence of last year: "qui n'a jamais voté Chirac me jette la première pierre" ;-) ]