Fri, Feb 02, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Chirac retracts Iran bomb remarks

AGENCIES , PARIS

French President Jacques Chirac said in an interview with two US newspapers and a French magazine that Iran's possession of a nuclear bomb would not be "very dangerous" and that if it used the weapon on Israel, Tehran would be immediately "razed," according to the newspapers. He later retracted the remarks.

Chirac spoke to reporters from the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune (IHT) and Le Nouvel Observateur earlier this week.

A day later, he called the trio of reporters back to his office and said he thought he had been speaking off the record and withdrew many of his remarks, the reporters said.

All three published the interviews yesterday.

The IHT and the Times said Chirac, 74, appeared distracted at times and struggled to remember names and dates in the first interview, but appeared more alert the next day.

"I would say that what is dangerous about this situation is not the fact of having a nuclear bomb -- having one, maybe a second one a little later, well, that's not very dangerous," Chirac was quoted as saying in the first interview.

His remarks went against the official position of France, and allies Britain, Germany, the US, Russia and China, which are pressuring Tehran to abandon sensitive nuclear technology that could be used to make atom bombs.

Chirac said the main danger was that other countries in the region, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, would follow suit.

"But what is very dangerous is proliferation," he said.

Chirac said Iran would be blitzed if it used its nuclear weapon.

"Where will it drop it, this bomb? On Israel? It would not have gone 200 metres into the atmosphere before Tehran would be razed to the ground," the reporters quoted Chirac as saying.

The following day, he back-tracked: "I retract it, of course, when I said, `One is going to raze Tehran,'" the Times reported.

Chirac also retracted his prediction that a nuclear Iran could encourage Saudi Arabia and Egypt to build a bomb.

"I retract it, of course, since neither Saudi Arabia nor Egypt has made the slightest declaration on these subjects, so it is not up to me to make them," he said.

The IHT quoted him as saying: "It is I who was wrong and I do not want to contest it. ... I should have paid better attention to what I was saying and understood that perhaps I was on the record."

The paper said it was not clear if Chirac's initial remarks reflected what he truly thought about Iran or whether he had misspoken.

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