'We Thought the French Were With Us'

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report with Brit Hume", April 19, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.

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SEN. JOHN KERRY: I will immediately reach out to other nations in a very different way from this administration. Within weeks of being inaugurated, I will return to the U.N., and I will literally, formally rejoin the community of nations and turnover a proud new chapter in America's relationship with the world.


BRIT HUME, HOST: John Kerry doesn't say it, of course, but President Bush did try to get the U.N. fully behind military action in Iraq with some early successes, including a unanimous resolution threatening serious consequences, if Iraq refused to comply with all previous U.N. resolutions. But in the end the U.N. did not go along. What happened?

For answers we turn to Kenneth Timmerman, journalist and author who says that one nation, France, blocked the way. And he sets forth the details in his book "The French Betrayal Of America." Mr. Timmerman joins us from our studios in New York.

Good afternoon -- good day to you, sir. Let me start you right out, as I just noted, there was a Resolution 1441, threatening serious consequences. It was unanimous, which means that France, a member of the permanent member of the Security Council up there, went along with it. What happened then?

KEN TIMMERMAN, AUTHOR, "FRENCH BETRAYAL OF AMERICA": Well, you're right, Brit. There was that resolution. And I find it a little bit hard to believe that Mr. Kerry thinks committee go to the U.N., and all of a sudden, undo things that have been done and undo lies and commitments that have been done.

Here is what happened behind the scenes. President Chirac (search) called up President Bush in late October of 2002 and he promised the U.S. president that he would be with us at the United Nations and that he would be with us if it came to using force against Saddam Hussein.

HUME: Now, to place that in time, October of 2002 is about the time that the U.S. Congress, attacking ahead of the U.N. in this instance, had passed a resolution authorizing the president to use force at his discretion to get Iraq to comply with the U.N. resolution and a number of other things?

TIMMERMAN: That's absolutely correct. And this was just days before the U.N. finally passed 1441. Now, so what is Mr. Kerry going to do? He is going to get lied to, as Mr. Bush got lied this is the problem. See, this is the problem. Chirac lied to the president of the United States, and then he ordered his Foreign Minister Dominick de Villepin, to do the same thing with Colin Powell. The extraordinary thing is that Powell and Villepin were having dinner in New York on the 19 of January 2003...

HUME: Well, hold on just a second. Let me just stop you just a second. So at the time -- let's go back to October for a moment. So the U.S. Congress has acted or is in the process of doing so.

The reality is the U.S. is building up in the area. Other countries are going along or going to join, and Chirac tells Bush I'll be with you in the end, and de Villepin says to Powell, at about the same time, the same thing

TIMMERMAN: Well, Villepin says this in January. He's saying this all along. This was their message all along, but what Chirac also says in October, he says, I'm going to send over one of my top generals to Tampa, Florida, to the United States Central Command to work out the details of how we include French forces in a U.S.-led coalition. So this was not just talk. He was also starting the actions and telling the French military they should get prepared to go into Iraq as part of a U.S.-led coalition.

So this was a pretty extraordinary deception effort by the French.

HUME: Are you convinced the French were attacking deceitfully from the start? Or is it more likely the case that, for whatever reason, the French high command, Chirac and others decided to change their minds?

TIMMERMAN: No, I don't think they changed their minds. I think they knew what they were doing. The key to this, Brit, is the $100 billion that Saddam Hussein had agreed to pay French oil companies in exchange for their political support at the United Nations. I think this was the biggest political payoff in history...

HUME: How do we know that?

TIMMERMAN: Well, I have a copy of one of the contracts, which I describe in my book, "The French Betrayal Of America." And there were two of them; they were going to give the French a lock on Iraq's oil in the southern part of the country, in exchange for their political support at the United Nations.

HUME: Now, so what then happened? Events moved forward. The U.S. is working. It is now the turn of the year. We're at the end of January. The U.S. is working to get a second resolution explicitly authorizing the use of force to enforce U.N. resolutions. What happens then?

TIMMERMAN: That's right. The second resolution was actually the 18 resolution requiring Iraq to give up its weapons of mass destruction, or else face consequences, serious consequences.

Powell and de Villepin, the French foreign minister, negotiating in New York; they have dinner together, one-on-one at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel on January 19. They're going over the specific wording for that resolution. And Powell had thought everything was worked out.

HUME: And he had -- in fact, his visit to New York, Powell's visit to New York, was at the de Villepin behest or invitation, what?

TIMMERMAN: It was at behest. De Villepin had demanded, had requested, that the United States back him to hold a U.N. Security Council session, while France was the president. So Villepin could be the president of the Security Council session.

It was really a puff job for him so he could preen himself in front of the cameras; everybody understood this. It was going to be on the terrorism, not the war in Iraq. And so he turned it around that next day, after that session which dealt with nothing of significance. He held a press conference on the...

HUME: So there was, in fact, a session at the U.N. that day. De Villepin is in his seat, and the issue of Iraq is not on the table.

TIMMERMAN: Absolutely not. They talked about the war on terror, the war against terrorism in general. So then de Villepin goes outside at noontime. Powell and all the other foreign ministers have gone to the French ambassador's residence for lunch. They thought nothing was going to happen.

Powell is actually watching Fox News in the video cameras in the French ambassador's residence as de Villepin goes on TV, and he says what? After about a half a minute's introduction, he says and now I would like to say a few words about Iraq. And that's when he announces to the world that France will never ever support the use of force against Saddam Hussein.

HUME: And Colin Powell (search) and the rest of the U.S. administration had no idea that this was going to happen?

TIMMERMAN: Slack-jawed. Powell's jaw dropped to the floor, is the way it was described to me by one of his confidant, somebody who was there. We had no idea.

We thought -- our administration thought that the French were with us, that French had dispatched the top general to Centcom, Chirac had promised the president, Villepin the foreign minister had promised Powell. They said they were with us, and they weren't.

HUME: All right. Kenneth Timmerman, very interesting account. Thank you very much, sir.

TIMMERMAN: Thank you, Brit.

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