France will respond to diplomatic 'aggression,' Mitterrand vows

September 15, 1990|By Diana Jean Schemo | Diana Jean Schemo,Paris Bureau of The Sun

*TC PARIS -- French President Francois Mitterrand called the Iraqi storming of the French ambassa

dor's residence in Kuwait City yesterday a violation of international law and an "aggression" and vowed that France "will respond to it."

Speaking during a trip to Czechoslovakia, where he met wit President Vaclav Havel, Mr. Mitterrand said he would convene an emergency session of his Cabinet this morning to formulate the French response.

Iraqi soldiers entered the French ambassador's residenc yesterday morning, seizing the French military attache, Col. Edouard Crespin, and three French nationals who had been hiding in the embassy to avoid being taken hostage. Colonel Crespin was later released, but the three French citizens reportedly were sent to Baghdad.

Iraqi troops also entered the Belgian Embassy and the Canadia ambassador's residence yesterday and the Dutch Embassy earlier.

The reaction to the Iraqi move was fast and furious. Forme Prime Minister Jacques Chirac called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council. Former President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, who opened the way to France's close relations with Iraq in 1974, said, "This unacceptable act calls for retaliation on our part."

The European Community, like the French president, called th Iraqi raids "intolerable" and said they violated the 1961 Vienna Convention protecting diplomatic missions and residences.

In a television interview last night, Iraq's ambassador to Paris Abdul Razzak al-Hachimi, implicitly acknowledged that the buildings had been entered by Iraqi troops. He said the compounds were no longer protected by diplomatic immunity, since Iraq had declared Kuwait an annexed province of Iraq and ordered the embassies closed by Aug. 24.

He also accused the French of seeking a pretext for hostilities in yesterday's events, quoting from Mr. Mitterrand's initial speech explaining French participation in the gulf.

French political sources said privately yesterday that Iraq migh be trying to clear out the diplomats in order to avoid handing the West a reason for unleashing hostilities.

Sources said that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had ordere an all-out offensive to rout resistance fighters from Kuwait but that he wanted to do so without Western witnesses. Any Westerners who might be killed during a massive attack on guerrilla fighters could also become the cause for Western intervention, they said.

Against the backdrop of Iraq's warming relations with Iran thi week, French television reported that a call went out after yesterday afternoon's prayers in Iran for major military maneuvers by the Guardians of the Revolution "to face the agents of oppression," believed to mean Western and especially U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia.

But it was not immediately clear why the call went out or whethe it could signal some future Iranian alignment alongside Iraq.

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