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Chirac Seeks Cooperation With U.S. But Criticizes War in Iraq

By Patrick E. Tyler

The New York Times -- LONDON

President Jacques Chirac crossed the English Channel to say on Thursday that France was ready to cooperate with the United States and Britain to make the world more stable, just and prosperous.

But his conciliatory advance through the pomp and protocol of a state visit -- celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Entente Cordiale, a pact that brought together the onetime bitter rivals -- was coupled with unrepentant criticism of the American-British war in Iraq and, more generally, of America’s global posture.

Most prominently, Chirac reiterated his view that the war in Iraq had led to an expansion of terrorism in the world.

Although he said France was willing to put its differences with Britain and the United States aside and look to the future by helping to rebuild a stable, democratic and sovereign Iraq, Chirac indicated that he believed that history would vindicate those who opposed it.

The French leader’s visit took place as Washington looked to Europe for support and assistance in several critical areas: Iraq, Palestinian elections and reining in Iran’s nuclear program.

Much of Chirac’s message seemed directed at the Bush administration as the American president prepared to visit Europe shortly after Inauguration Day in hopes of orchestrating a fresh start with his many critics on the Continent.

Chirac’s comments came after he held talks with Prime Minister Tony Blair, who had himself just returned from Washington, where he and President Bush pledged, at a news conference held only hours after the burial of Yasser Arafat, to seize the opportunity to reopen peace negotiations in the Middle East.

Chirac praised those efforts, and said Britain’s special relationship with the United States was a “family link” created by history and therefore was an “advantage to Europe” as a bridge across the Atlantic.