PARIS – France said Monday that a new United Nations resolution on Iraq was "neither useful nor necessary" and that weapons inspections should continue.
"There is no reason today to interrupt the strategy of inspections to veer into another way of thinking that would lead to war," said the chief spokeswoman for President Jacques Chirac, Catherine Colonna.
"A new resolution is neither useful nor necessary," she said after Chirac met the Croatian president, Stipe Mesic. She said Chirac told Mesic that France wants to give inspections a chance to succeed.
The United States is to submit a resolution to the U.N. Security Council early this week, President Bush said this weekend. The resolution will be offered jointly with Britain and possibly Spain, Bush said. An official in Britain said he expected a vote by mid-March.
Earlier, France's foreign minister said Paris opposes a new resolution as long as weapons inspectors are making progress in Iraq.
Dominique de Villepin said France will try to boost inspectors' effectiveness by proposing a schedule for Iraq to follow through with demands. It will submit the plan as a memorandum to the Security Council, he said.
Inspectors say they are making progress, and "that's the reason why, in this context, we are opposed to a new resolution, as the president has said," de Villepin said in an interview with Le Figaro newspaper published Monday.
Asked about the possibility France would veto a resolution, de Villepin said that was "not an issue," as so many countries were pushing for more inspections. Among others, he mentioned Russia and China, two of the five nations with veto power in the council.
France wants to turn up the pressure on Baghdad to force it to disarm quickly, he said in the interview.
If Iraq starts destroying its Al Samoud 2 missile program by the end of the week -- as the United Nations has ordered -- "it will be a positive step," he said. Iraq has so far withheld a decision.
The United States needs support from at least nine of the 15 council members to win approval for a resolution, providing France, Russia or China do not cast a veto. Britain and the United States also have veto power.
France has been lobbying for additional support for the inspectors and says war must be a last resort. France has not, however, ruled out using force if the inspections fail.