The resolution would give Iraqi President Saddam Hussein a March 17 deadline to disarm or face possible military consequences.
In his first televised interview on the Iraq crisis, Chirac said of the new U.S, British and Spanish backed resolution: “Whatever happens, France will vote ‘no’.”
“There could, effectively, be a majority of nine votes or more for a new resolution, one which would authorize war,” Chirac told French television. “If that was the case, then France would vote ‘no’. France will vote ‘no’ because she considers tonight that there is no reason to wage a war to reach the goal we set ourselves, that is the disarmament of Iraq.”
Chirac warned that a war with Iraq would “break up the international coalition against terrorism” and added that the first victors in such a conflict “will be those who want a clash of civilizations, cultures and religions.”
But the French leader also said that Iraq was not cooperating sufficiently with U.N. weapons inspectors.
“It’s not for you or me to say whether the inspections are effective, if Iraq is sufficiently cooperative — it is not, by the way, I’ll tell you that straight away,” Chirac said.
Chirac spoke as representatives from key Security Council members lobbied for support ahead of a U.N. vote on whether to support the measure giving Saddam a rigid deadline for disarmament.
The French decision also came hours after Russia, another of the five permanent members of the Security Council with veto power, indicated it also opposed the current resolution.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said his country would vote against the resolution in its current form but appeared to leave open the possibility that a revised proposal that did not contain an “unfulfillable ultimatum” could gain Russia’s support.
“In the course of the latest meeting of the U.N. Security Council we didn’t hear any serious case in favor of the use of force to solve the Iraq problem,” Ivanov said, according to the Interfax news agency.
“Russia believes that there is no need now for any additional resolutions of the U.N. Security Council, and therefore Russia has openly announced that, if the draft resolution, which has been submitted today for consideration and which contains unfulfillable ultimatum demands, is put to vote after all, Russia will vote against that resolution,” he added.
Lobbying efforts have been focused on the undecided nations among the 10 elected members who serve two-year terms on the Security Council and include Mexico, Chile, Pakistan, Cameroon, Angola and Guinea.
Pakistan appeared to side with the French and Russians Monday when Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali said his country would not support a resolution that opened the door for war.
“We will do what is best for our country,” Jamali told reporters Monday after a parliament session. “It is not best for my country to support war against Iraq.”
An official of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters that Pakistan would abstain from the vote on the resolution.
President Bush made an urgent round of phone calls to world leaders Monday in an effort to bolster support for the March 17 deadline, according to White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. His calls included a talk with Chinese President Jiang Zemin. China, another permanent member of the Security Council with veto power, has said previously that every effort must be made to avoid war.
Secretary of State Colin Powell met with Guinea’s foreign minister, Francois Fall, at the State Department in Washington Monday. Guinea currently holds the presidency of the Security Council.
Asked by a reporter if the U.S. had the nine Security Council votes necessary for the new resolution to gain U.N. approval, Powell said, “You can make your own count, we will make our vote count.”
Powell told Fox News that the vote on the new resolution would take place “sometime this week.”
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan warned from the Hague Monday that the legitimacy of military action taken without Security Council approval would be “seriously impaired” and pleaded with the council to agree on a common position on the Iraq crisis.
Meanwhile, Iraq called on council members to stand up to the U.S. and oppose the March 17 deadline.
“The logic of justice and law should rule the Security Council, not bloodthirsty whims for a group of adventurers in Washington,” read a front-page editorial in Babil, an influential Iraqi newspaper owned by Saddam’s son Odai.