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Rebuilding Iraq

  Back in 1975, Saddam Hussein (center) was accompanied by Jacques Chirac (wearing glasses), then France's prime minister, on a tour of a French nuclear power station.
(AFP Photo)


Chirac's other Iraq policy

By Joshua Glenn, 3/2/2003

ACQUES CHIRAC'S OPPOSITION TO the Bush administration's march to war may have won him the applause of antiwar activists, but others have noted that the French president may have less than principled reasons for his position. After all, France has economic ties to Iraq, and Chirac has millions of Muslim voters to worry about, too. And a photograph which has recently been circulating online offers a mute, though eloquent, J'accuse of its own.

In this 1975 photo, then-Vice President Hussein is seen touring the Cadarache nuclear power station in France, accompanied by a bespectacled Chirac, France's prime minister at the time. Chirac freelanced a deal to sell Saddam two nuclear reactors, and arranged to have French nuclear scientists and engineers train their counterparts in Iraq-most of whom are now on the list of Iraqi scientists and engineers that UN weapons inspectors want to chat with. Not only did Chirac help build Iraq's ''Osirak'' reactor-the Israelis dubbed it ''O-Chirac''-near Baghdad, but he also sought to ship Iraq weapons-grade uranium, even though a safer grade was available. (France's president, Valery Giscard d'Estaing, scotched the plan.) By the end of the Iran-Iraq war, Iraq was France's single largest arms customer; Iranians referred to Chirac as ''Shah-Iraq.'' In 1981, Israeli fighter pilots-including a 26-year-old Ilan Ramon, who died last month on the space shuttle Columbia-destroyed the Osirak reactor shortly before it was due to deliver nuclear capacity to Iraq. Chirac, echoing the views of many world leaders at the time, described the Israeli raid as ''unacceptable.''

This story ran in the Boston Globe on 3/2/2003.
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