Thursday, September 27, 2007

Bush Threatened Chile Over Iraq Vote

Spanish newspaper El Pais has published the transcript of a conversation between former Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, George Bush, and Condoleeza Rice at Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, four weeks before the invasion of Iraq in 2003. In the conversation Bush announced his intention to be in Baghdad "by the end of March" and also threatened to derail Chile's free trade agreement with the US if the Latin American nation did not back a planned second resolution on Iraq in the United Nations Security Council.

In the conversation, apparently recorded by then Spanish ambassador Javier Rupérez, Aznar asked Bush to help him secure domestic support for action against Iraq and stressed that "it's not the same to act without [the resolution] as with it". Bush assured him that "the text will be made as far as possible to help you. I'm pretty easy on the content". He told Aznar that: "Saddam Hussein is not disarming. We have to get him now...There's two weeks left. In two weeks we'll be militarily ready...We'll be in Baghdad by the end of March".

Discussing the level of Security Council support for a second resolution, Bush said that"countries like Mexico, Chile, Angola and Cameroon (temporary Council members at the time) should know that what's at stake is the security of the United States, and act with a sense of friendship towards us. [Chilean president Ricardo] Lagos should know that the free trade agreement with Chile is awaiting confirmation in the Senate and that a negative attitude in this matter could endanger its ratification".

Chilean newspaper La Nacion said that the story had been confirmed by current Chilean ambassador to the United Nations Heraldo Muñoz, who at the time was a government minister. Muñoz told a Chilean radio station that the account of threats to Chile suggested by the transcript "basically fit the truth". According to Muñoz, after "very serious discussion", the Chilean government concluded that its foreign policy of multilateralism and respecting international law could not be sacrificed.

Muñoz said that in the view of the Chilean government while there was “a certain risk for the TLC", it was decided to trust that "a lot had already been invested by the United States and ourselves in many rounds of negotiation and there weren't going to be backwards steps because if there wasn't a treaty with Chile, with which Latin American country would there be?".

The Chilean government thus agreed that "it was worth defending [our] longstanding foreign policy principles", said Muñoz.

The US-Chile free trade agreement was ratifed by the US Congress in the last week of July 2003.

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