PARIS -- French President Francois Mitterrand announce yesterday that he would significantly expand France's military deployment in the Persian Gulf with combat aircraft, armored tanks and 4,000 ground troops after Iraqi soldiers stormed the French ambassador's residence in Kuwait City Friday and abducted three French nationals.
Speaking at a news conference after an emergency Cabine meeting yesterday morning, Mr. Mitterrand said France would demand that the United Nations Security Council be convened to condemn the Iraqi raid on foreign diplomatic missions and residences, to step up enforcement of the embargo against Iraq and to widen the U.N. land and sea blockade to cover air transports.
The French steps, triggered by Friday's raid, followed a U.S appeal for materiel and financial assistance in facing down Iraq.
this last aggression, as to all the others, it is incumbent on us to respond," Mr. Mitterrand said yesterday, adding that as relations with Iraq stood now, war was beginning to seem inevitable.
He said that France would also retaliate for the storming of its ambassador's residence in Kuwait City by limiting the freedom of movement of Iraqi diplomats in France. The military attache and Iraqi intelligence agents would be expelled from France immediately, along with 26 Iraqi officers and technicians studying at military academies, he said. Remaining Iraqi diplomats would no longer be permitted to leave Paris.
The Iraqi ambassador to Paris, Abdul Razzak al-Hashimi, vowed that Baghdad would retaliate. But just a few hours later, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein made the conciliatory gesture of ordering the release of elderly and sick French hostages.
Yesterday's action will send 4,000 French troops to join the 9,100 sailors and airmen already in the Persian Gulf region. The new deployment to Saudi Arabia will include an armored regiment equipped with 48 AMX-10 tanks, an airborne regiment with 48 assault helicopters, an infantry regiment, a crack anti-aircraft division and 30 jet fighters.
Mr. Mitterrand said yesterday that he believed President Hussei may have been testing Western solidarity when he allowed troops to enter the French ambassador's residence Friday, which France maintains violated the 1961 Vienna Convention protecting diplomats and their embassies and residences.
"I think it is a test [of Western solidarity], because I don't think Iraq wanted to unleash an armed conflict," he said.
French commentators reasoned yesterday that Mr. Hussein may have struck at France as the weakest of the Western powers that have rallied against it, and therefore the one least likely to respond militarily.
But if Mr. Hussein intended to test Western cohesion, his plan appeared to have backfired. France, which before the raid maintained that it would not necessarily go to war if the United States launched an attack on Iraq, clearly appreciated President Bush's support Friday night.
Mr. Mitterrand said he saw little coming from Iraq that would suggest a peaceful resolution.
"Beyond the embargo, one doesn't see any sign from Iraq that would allow us to avoid an armed conflict," he said. Mr. Mitterrand said the international community would need a few more weeks to gauge the effectiveness of the U.N. embargo.
"But such as things stand now on the Iraqi side, one must say there is a belligerent state of mind that seems to measure poorly the risks. And we must prepare ourselves for it."