The French Mistake.

Steven Den Best summarizes the non-weasel-European responses to Chirac’s recent outburst against Eastern Europe (my favorite was the Czech response to the implied threat against those who are not yet members of the EU: "We are not joining the EU so we can sit and shut up.") and links to this article (among others) about what provoked him into having a tantrum in front of the cameras. (Since I love the Italians, it’s worth noting that Berlusconi was the first to assert himself; go, him.) Emphases mine:

AMID the mocha coffee and the petits four, Jacques Chirac lost the argument. Shortly afterwards at his press conference, he lost his temper too.

Sources keeping a delicate diplomatic distance in the grand European Council dining room reported that Monsieur le President was steadily being forced into a corner.

Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, fully aware that the international body's future is on the line, began by appealing to the 15 EU leaders to act together. The international community, he said, demanded that their leaders unite around a common line.

He also told it to the heads of government straight: that if Saddam Hussein continued with his defiance, then the security council would have no option but to face up to its responsibilities - confront the Baghdad regime with military force.

At Mr Annan's hawkish stance, Mr Chirac stood up and, with Gallic passion, began a defence of the French position.

Flinging his arms up and down, he declared that war was a terrible thing and that thousands of innocent people would lose their lives in a second Gulf war. "It is a question of life and death," he said.

It was suggested that, at this point, the most dramatic moment of the evening occurred. Silvio Berlusconi, the diminutive Italian premier, eyeballed Mr Chirac and insisted: "I'm just as concerned about life and death as you are."

He asked the French president to consider what happened to innocent people in Bali and in New York's twin towers.

Then, the normally mild-mannered Bertie Ahern, the taoiseach, interjected and pointed out that the only person getting away with defying the will of the international community was Saddam.

He added that the weapons inspectors could not go on indefinitely.

By this time, Mr Chirac was positively steaming at the pro-American forces reigned against him. But there was more.

Jan Peter Balkenende, the new Dutch prime minister, underscored the hawkish line, saying the issue was Iraq's full compliance and that it was now just a matter of weeks, not months, before the matter had to be resolved. "We have to reinforce the pressure on Iraq," he said.

Spain's Jose Maria Aznar also called for international cohesion, pointing out that the UN had only got so far with the Iraqi dictator by threatening force.

Then, Tony Blair said his piece, deriding the 12 years of deceit by Saddam and stressing he had to come into compliance "100%".

Looking at his colleagues one by one, he told them bluntly: "There is no intelligence agency of any government around this table that does not know that the government of Iraq has weapons of mass destruction."

In a passionate conclusion, the prime minister said: "If Saddam stays, the Iraqis will pay with their lives."


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