Chirac Spokesman Says Sales Stopped When Conservatives Came To Power
PARIS (AP) _ France has sold no arms to Iran since the Conservatives came to power in March 1986, a spokesman for Premier Jacques Chirac said Friday.
Denis Baudouin said he was making ″the most categorical denial″ of allegations that arms sales to Iran, reportedly conducted secretly under the previous Socialist government, continued after Chirac’s center-right coalition took office.
A military report, declassified Wednesday after its text was published by the conservative Paris newspaper Le Figaro, said Socialist President Francois Mitterrand and former Defense Minister Charles Hernu were informed of the sales by the French arms firm Luchaire in 1984 and did not stop them.
Hernu has denied authorizing arms sales to Iran, which has been at war with Iraq since September 1980. Mitterrand has made no public comment on the affair.
France is Iraq’s second largest arms supplier after the Soviet Union. The government banned sales of arms to Iran in 1980.
Baudouin told reporters the premier’s office did not intend to challenge Mitterrand on the issue.
″Anything which could produce the slightest divergence among the leaders of our country could only serve our adversaries in a particularly explosive region,″ he said.
But the chairman of the National Assembly’s Defense Committee, Francois Fillon, said it was time ″that the president give his opinion on the Luchaire affair.″
Fillon, a member of Chirac’s Rally for the Republic party, also proposed a special parliamentary inquiry into the case, an unusual move in France.
The report by Jean-Francois Barba, inspector-general of the armed forces, said Luchaire had sold about 500,000 artillery shells to Iran between 1983 and 1986, using false papers identifying other countries as the destinations.
Barba’s report said as much as $500,000 might have been turned over to the Socialist Party by a Hernu associate.
The Socialist Party has denied receiving any money from the alleged arms sales.