CROCK FROM CHIRAC ABOUT TEHRAN THREAT — Chirac seems to have returned to his original policy – seeking French influence and a market for French goods in the Muslim world.

CROCK FROM CHIRAC ABOUT TEHRAN THREAT By URI DAN

October 27, 2006 — PARIS -France’s Jacques Chirac is becoming a weak link in the international effort to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons – because he believes Iran’s president is too smart to detonate the bomb. “Ahmadinejad is an intelligent leader and will never use nuclear weapons,” Chirac has been saying privately.The reason Chirac is convinced Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wouldn’t use the bomb that everyone knows he is building is that, if he did, “within a couple of minutes, Tehran would be decimated,” the French president says.

This is a sharp change by Chirac and comes as France debates whether Ahmadinejad should be taken seriously when he calls for the elimination of Israel and denies the Holocaust. It recalls the debate in Europe in the 1930s over whether Hitler really meant what he said.

Chirac has the answer.

“All that talk by Ahmadinejad is to get the Muslim world on the side of the Shiites,” he says. “I know this part of the world very well.”

So far, Chirac has made his comments in private talks. But the echoes are heard in Jerusalem where officials are worried over the latest change in his attitude toward the Mideast.

When Ariel Sharon first came to power, Chirac privately called him “a block of cement” with whom nobody could talk.

But in July 2005 on the eve of Sharon’s withdrawal of Israelis from the Gaza Strip, Chirac established a close dialogue with him, Israeli sources said.

They began to exchange information about the Iranian danger and about Ahmadinejad, whom Sharon regarded as “worse than his predecessors.”

But with Sharon out of the picture, Chirac seems to have returned to his original policy – seeking French influence and a market for French goods in the Muslim world.

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