Washington Times Publishes Transcript of Disputed Interview
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Washington Times published in Monday’s editions a full transcript of its interview with French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac after Chirac denied saying West German officials believed Israeli intelligence was involved with the attempted bombing of an El Al airliner.
The newspaper reported Friday that Chirac said Syria was not involved in the plane bomb incident that was aborted by security guards at the London airport April 17. Chirac, the Times reported, said West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher had concuded that the plot was organized jointly by Israel’s Mossad intelligence service and renegade elements in Syrian President Hafez Assad’s entourage.
The newspaper said Friday that Chirac had agreed to the interview with Arnaud de Borchgrave, editor-in-chief of the Times, on condition that he not be quoted directly. However, the newspaper said the interview was tape- recorded with Chirac’s knowledge.
The publication of the transcript of the 90-minute interview, conducted last Tuesday in Paris, comes on the same day as foreign ministers from the 12 Common Market members meet in London to consider sanctions against Syria advocated by Britain.
Britain broke diplomatic relations with Syria after Nezar Hindawi, a Jordanian journalist, was convicted and sentenced to 45 years in prison for attempting to use his pregnant Irish girlfriend to smuggle a bomb onto the El Al jet at Heathrow Airport.
In its transcript of the Chirac interview, the Times quoted the prime minister as saying about the plane bomb incident:
″I spoke to both Kohl and Hans-Dietrich Genscher about it. I don’t go as far as they do, but their thesis is that the Hindawi plot was a provocation designed to embarrass Syria and destabilize the Assad regime. Who was behind it? Probably people connected with the Israeli Mossad in conjunction with certain Syrian elements close to Assad who seek his overthrow. Things of this nature can be infinitely complex.″
Later, Chirac was quoted as saying:
″The experts who know the Syrian ambassador who was alleged to have been part of the plot and who was expelled from Britain say it is utterly implausible, nay impossible, that he had contact with Hindawi. That Hindawi had contacts with certain members of a Syrian service is another matter.″
Chirac’s office in Paris issued a statement Friday denying the thrust of the original article. ″The prime minister, Mr. Jacques Chirac, says the interpretation given his statements by Mr. de Borchgrave in an article in The Washington Times today is completely denied,″ the statement said.
The West German government also denied the report and Israeli officials said it was ″ridiculous.″
In Monday’s editions, the Times said its decided to publish the interview ″after intense discussions through the weekend between Mr. de Borchgrave and senior editors of the Times.″ One consideration in going ahead with publication of the transcript, the newspaper said, ″was that the credibility of the Times and the reputation of its editor had been called seriously into question.″
″I am a personal admirer of Mr. Chirac, but this newspaper is committed to covering the news as it occurs,″ de Borchgrave was quoted as saying.
The newspaper also said that during the weekend, ″five separate approaches were made to Mr. de Borchgrave and the Times by intermediaries, known to Mr. de Borchgrave, who represented themselves as agents of Mr. Chirac, urging that the Times not print the transcript of the interview.″
The newspaper also quoted unidentified sources within the French government as saying that if it went ahead and published the transcript, the accounts ″would be denounced as ‘a plot’ organized by the Unification Church and the CIA.″
The Times is owned by a corporation whose officers are members of the Unification Church of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.