March 22nd, 2011

Former French foreign minister on Libya coalition efforts

CNN’s Zain Verjee asks former French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner who should lead coalition efforts in Libya.

FULL TRANSCRIPT BELOW: Any use must credit CNN

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR:  France was one of the loudest voices pushing for a no-fly zone over Libya.  A little earlier I spoke to the former French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner.  I began by asking whether France jumped the gun, didn’t coordinate, and went its own way. 


BERNARD KOUCHNER, FORMER FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER:  I know that this is very difficult to coordinate, such an action and mainly at the beginning.  But I have no doubt it will be coordinated.  I don’t know the way for the time being, but they are already meeting in Brussels and I think that today we’ll get a better coordination. 

VERJEE:  Do you think France handled it correctly? 

KOUCHNER:  Well, yes.  What was very important — much more than very important.  It was to intervene just in time.  Not after the bleeding, not after the massacre.  And it’s always difficult because it takes time.   And it has taken too long.  But I think we were just on time to avoid the blood bath in Benghazi. 

So now we have to coordinate, and not only to coordinate but to explain to the people what’s going on there.  To explain to the public opinion that it was necessary to stop the massacre and now it’s up to the Libyans, not all the Libyans, but it’s up to them to find the political solution. 

VERJEE:  Who do you think should be in charge of this mission, because the confusion is unsettling and embarrassing? 

KOUCHNER:  Embarrassing for whom? 

VERJEE:  For the international community, not to be coordinated over a major military action.  And the question now is, who should be in charge of the mission?  Who should lead it?  Britain, France? 

KOUCHNER:  Please, madam.  Don’t ask me about all the difficulties.  Just say before that it was necessary to intervene, that we had to protect the people, so we did.  And now the technical and political questions are on the table and we’ll see.  It doesn’t matter if one, the French or the Brits or the other, the American or NATO will coordinate.  It will be done. 

VERJEE:  Should Moammar Gadhafi be a legitimate target? 

KOUCHNER:  It was not written in the U.N. resolution at all.  What is the target is peace.  What is the target is to make war to the war.  And we’ll see.  It was necessary to stop the attack on Benghazi and we did.  For the rest, this is not the end.  Of course we know, we are not childish enough to believe that only the bombing by planes will be enough.  I know that.  This is difficult. 

VERJEE:  The “New York Times” has an editorial and it asks this important question today.  “What would the U.S. and its allies do if the rebels cannot dislodge Gadhafi?” 

What are your thoughts? 

KOUCHNER:  We’ll help the rebels as soon as possible in order to get everybody quiet.  But you know it was exactly the same when we start bombing — I mean, in the Balkans or in Sarajevo or in Kosovo or in Sierra Leone or everywhere.  At the beginning, we are always disorganized and it will be done.  Politically this is a difficult situation and we need to find the solution — we — the international community needs to find a solution.  Yes, you’re right.