France joins WikiLeaks condemnation despite Sarkozy jibes
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French President Nicolas Sarkozy is touchy, authoritarian and “an emperor with no clothes”, according to US diplomats whose cables have been made public by whistleblower WikiLeaks. But Paris says it backs Washington in condemning the leaks, which also show tensions over France’s relations with Russia.
Wikileaks’ revelations are “irresponsible” and “an attack on states' sovereignty and the confidentiality of their correspondence", French official Bernard Valero told journalists.
Earlier French government spokesperson Francois Baroin called the documents' release a "threat to democratic authority”.
"We stand united with the US administration on the desire to avoid that which not only damages states' authority, the quality of their services, but puts men and women who have worked in the service of the country in danger," he told Europe 1 radio.
Apart from the diplomats' unflattering references to Sarkozy, a cable quotes German Vice-Chancellor Guido Westerwelle's judgement that the French president is unpredictable.
“One never really knew what was going to happen with Sarkozy involved,” it reports him saying.
The leaks also reveal:
- The US was worried about the planned sale of a French warship to Russia – US Defence Secretary Robert Gates told France’s then-Defence Minister Hervé Morin that the sale of a Mistral-class helicopter carrier sent “a mixed signal”. He claimed that democracy in Russia has “disappeared” and that the government is “an oligarchy run by the security services”. Moscow was not fully honouring a Sarkozy-brokered peace deal with Georgia, he added. Morin replied “pointedly” that he had “pushed hard for the sale” and asked how “we can tell Russia we desire partnership but then not trust them”. Anyway, “this single ship” would not make any difference to Moscow’s “capabilities”, he said.
- France opposed the US’s missile defence system in Europe – Morin argued that the shield would “give publics a false sense of security”. He was worried about financing the scheme and asked whom it aims to counter, “Nuclear states or rogue states?” Nato approved the proposal at last week’s Lisbon summit.
- An adviser to Sarkozy called Iran fascist - Sarkozy adviser Jean-David Levitte
dubbed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran “effectively a fascist state” and said its response to US President Barack Obama’s peace-making overtures “a farce”. Europe and the US are paralysed until “Russia and China finally lose patience”, he said. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin believed that Iran was Russia’s greatest threat, Gates said.
- French opposition to Turkey joining the European Union annoyed Washington – Levitte argued that Turkey was not carrying out reforms which were a condition for joining the EU. US Assistant Secretary Philip H Gordon replied that that was because “the Turks did not believe that their EU candidacy will be allowed to progress”. Levitte insisted that Turkey must see itself as “a bridge between the two worlds of Europe and Asia, rather than anchored in Europe itself”. A referendum in France might reject Turkish EU membership, he said.
- France sent a secret special force mission to Afghanistan – While public opinion is “opposed to the war”, France is “totally engaged” there, Levitte stressed. It has made a ‘non-official contribution as well”, Morin pointed out in a separate meeting. The cable says this is a reference to a classified deployment of French Special Forces that have a limited mission to find two kidnapped French journalists”.
- Chavez is “crazy” – Levitte (again) told US officials that Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez is “crazy” and “taking one of the richest countries in Latin America and turning it into another Zimbabwe”.
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