27th Feb 2020

Chirac: France would use nuclear arms if attacked

French president Jacques Chirac has warned France could use nuclear arms if attacked by a state or state-supported terrorist group.

Speaking at a nuclear base in Brittany (France), Mr Chirac said "The leaders of states who would use terrorist means against us, as well as those who would consider using in one way or another weapons of mass destruction, must understand that they would lay themselves open to a firm and adapted response on our part."

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He added that such a response could be a conventional one, but "It could also be of a different kind."

Analysts point out that it is the first time the French leader has linked the possibility of the country's nuclear response to a terrorist attack, arguing that it means a policy change.

France and Britain are the only two EU countries holding an independent nuclear deterrent, while Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Turkey, which is on the waiting list to join the bloc, are hosting US nuclear weapons on their territory.

The French nuclear arms programe was ordered in 1960 by Charles de Gaulle, and it has been scaled down to around 350 nuclear weapons after the end of Cold War, according to BBC.

Tensions over Iran looming

Mr Chirac's statement comes amid growing tensions over Iran's resumed nuclear activities.

While Tehran claims it wants to use the enrichment project purely for research and the production of energy, the international community fears it could be used for developing nuclear weapons.

The UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is scheduled to hold an emergency meeting on the issue in two weeks (2 February).

The US and the EU trio - Britain, Germany and France - are considering to press for Iran's referral to the Security Council at the meeting, while Russia and China are still reluctant to support such a move.

Beijing called on the EU to return to negotiations with Tehran, cancelled after the Islamic country broke the UN seals on uranium enrichment equipment earlier this month, while also pressing on Iran to halt its nucleal activities.

UN secretary general Kofi Annan has also urged the world's leaders to push for a diplomatic solution at the IAEA level.

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