by RAY FLEMING
PRESIDENT Chirac still has to declare whether he intends to contest the French presidential election in May but his muddled performance in Paris this week may already have conclusively settled the matter for the French people.

In an interview given to the International Herald Tribune and Le Nouvel Observateur the President spoke so far outside his long-established policy on Iran that the journalists concerned had to be called back the following day so that he could correct what he had said: that if Iran possessed a nuclear weapon it would not pose much of a danger and that, in any case, if it were fired against a country like Israel “It would not have gone off 200 metres into the atmosphere before Tehran would be razed to the ground.” At his second meeting with the journalists Chirac said he had not realised he was speaking “on the record” and apologised: “It was I who was wrong and I do not want to contest it. I should have paid better attention to what I was saying.” In line with normal practice in France, where politicans are able to edit the transcript of an interview before it is published, the approved version of the President's remarks will not include his view about an Iranian bomb and what would happen if it were used.

Instead, officially, he said merely, “I do not see what type of scenario could justify Iran's recourse to an atomic bomb.”

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