Terrorist attacks committed in the United States of America.






(Pursuant to Rule 46, paragraph 2 of the Rules of Procedure)

Friday 14 September 2001


Hearing of Messrs. Daniel Vaillant, Minister of the Interior, Hubert Védrine, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Alain Richard, Minister of Defence, in the wake of the terrorist attacks committed in the United States of America.

Chaired by Mr Raymond Forni, President of the National Assembly, and co-chaired by Mr François Loncle, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and Mr Paul Quilès, Chairman of the National Defence and Armed Forces Committee.

The sitting opened at 15:00.

Mr Raymond Forni, President of the National Assembly - Before starting the debate I ask you to observe a minute of silence in memory of the victims of the attacks.

(The deputies stand for a minute of silence).

On Tuesday 11 September the United States were struck by a wave of attacks unprecedented in its history and in that of mankind. Unprecedented by the means employed—airliners used like bombs—and unprecedented by the number of victims, probably several thousands. In these dramatic circumstances I have sent a message on behalf of the National Assembly to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, to state the horror, emotion and indignation which the nation and ourselves feel over these barbaric acts. I have also, in agreement with their respective chairmen, decided to convene the two standing committees—Foreign Affairs and Defence—in a meeting open to all the deputies and to the press, to reveal our emotion and to be associated in the analysis of the situation by the Government and in the decisions it takes. The authors of the attacks chose to strike the heart of the American nation. The American people has been hit in its bosom and challenged by the most heinous terrorism, but all peoples must unite to condemn these acts.

The National Assembly pays its respects to the distressed victims and families. It assures them of its compassion and its solidarity. But emotion aside, let's not give way to mass psychosis and to fatalism. There comes a time in the life of a nation when it must cope with challenges threatening its higher interests. Let's not yield to simplification. Islam and terrorism should not be equated: the Muslim world has reacted with dignity to these acts which its main leaders have condemned. I wish to thank all our country's politicians for the spirit of responsibility they have shown. Today's extraordinary meeting will allow us to take stock of the situation and examine the envisaged measures. After the chairmen of the committees and the ministers have spoken, the representatives of each group can question the Government. However, bear in mind that the meeting taking place afterwards at the Senate forces us to be brief.

Mr François Loncle, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee - Thank you for such large attendance at this meeting which I am glad the President of our assembly convened.

Since the dire Tuesday 11 September, since the abominable attacks, we have shared intense emotion. The time for analysis is now beginning and soon it will be time for action. The attacks against the World Trade Center and against the Pentagon mark a watershed with numerous implications hard to envisage. In any case they represent a new stage which will change international relations by creating a climate of generalised insecurity. More than ever therefore let's stay level-headed, as the Prime Minister says. We should remain calm and clear-sighted, making sure we don't give way to mass psychosis. Retaliation, however necessary, should be prevented from becoming disproportionate, irrational and counterproductive in order to avoid an escalation of violence. We should not fail to differentiate between the action of certain Islamic fanatics and the Arab Muslim world which, overall, has condemned these barbaric practices. Let's steer clear of islamophobia and the confrontation of civilisations. We should show our sympathy and our solidarity towards the American people, and France has already widely affirmed its support. Transatlantic coordination is more than ever essential. Before any action, it is necessary to identify those responsible for the attacks, reconstitute the chain of command and gather irrefutable evidence. Killing innocent people to revenge innocent people is out of the question. In any case military retaliation will not be sufficient. The international community must engage politically in solving various crises. It must put in unflagging effort to solve all our planet's conflicts, beginning with the Middle East ones. I am used to being brief at committee meetings: I prefer to leave my floor time to the deputies. But I insist on saying what I feel sore about: there has been too much leniency towards rogue States, too much negligence and approximation in our fight against religious fanaticism of whatever origin. We need more and better Europe, more and better transatlantic relations. We need courage and political determination.

Mr Paul Quilès, Chairman of the National Defence and Armed Forces Committee - In the public debate following these monstrous attacks, the National Assembly shares with the Government the major responsibility of deciding whether our policy combating international terrorism should be reoriented.

First of all I wish to thank the ministers who have freed themselves to participate in this first debate sitting. We indeed appreciate this token of recognition of the prerogatives of our Assembly.

I express my profound sympathy to the American people, to its Parliament and to its Government. My thoughts also go to the thousands of victims and to their families. Our great emotion aside, it is also our duty to understand these acts in order to prevent them from happening again.

Me feeling is that we cannot, except metaphorically, speak of a war. The authors, not yet identified, indeed did not risk attacking the instruments of American power. Their aims had a mainly symbolic value and they attacked civil populations. Their extremely barbaric acts cannot be considered as acts of war strictly speaking. Yet it should be noted that they resulted from lengthy and meticulous preparation which probably involved some fifty people. The organisation of these attacks takes us aback. Their political goal is beyond doubt: the aim was to brutally reveal American vulnerability by destroying strong symbols of American power. For the third time in their history, after Pearl Harbour in 1941 and the launching of the first Sputnik in 1957, the Americans have shown vulnerability.

Who are the authors of these acts? What are the contours and the structures of the organisation(s) involved? Are there States behind them that tolerate them, acting as their accomplices or controlling them? Evidently many questions remain but several leads are already being followed. An organisation of Islamic extremists based in Afghanistan is particularly suspected but the greatest prudence should be observed as long as there are no proven facts, and we should steer clear of any confusion. We are not faced with a war of Islam against the West. Nor can we speak of a fight of Good against Evil or of the Westerners against Muslims.

The USA's fight against the networks that have attacked them, perhaps with the complicity of certain State bodies, is legitimate; so much sufferance and humiliation cannot go by unpunished. We should however ensure that the retaliatory action does not have a disproportionate scale or use inappropriate means.

Among the factors which may have inspired the terrorists in their wild calculations, no doubt the permanence of certain conflicts should be borne in mind, especially those of the Middle East. A rejection of American influence, seen as excessive and unilateral, may also be underscored. Whatever the case, nothing can excuse terrorism. Then again can we assert that these attacks would not have taken place had the Camp David or Taba negotiations succeeded?

Terrorism feeds on hatred, frustration and social destructuring. The United States is making an appeal to our solidarity: it can count on us both to continue the rescue operations and to seek out those responsible.

Pursuant to Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty on the action to be taken should an external attack occur against one of the States parties, each country shall take such action as it deems necessary. It can already be noted that our country cannot envisage participating in any action unless it is has been previously consulted and associated in the decision-making. Military solidarity requires formal consultations beforehand.

It is too early yet to measure the strategic consequences of these events on the international scene. Will military relations between NATO and Russia be strengthened? Will Pakistan and Saudi Arabia be served notice? In any case it is necessary to re-examine the risks, threats and strategic postures of each party—nothing will be the same as before.

The United Nation's authority and capacity for action should be strengthened in the wake of these strategic upheavals—it alone has the required universal dimension and legitimacy.

As for our country, several issues have to be decided.

In the first instance, our diplomatic action and active participation in the European security policy should be oriented so that it does not isolate us internationally. We must take care not to increase our vulnerability to terrorism. And we must pursue our action to lessen the gap between the North and the South—which, as shown in Durban, is growing.

Then we should better coordinate our intelligence policy, providing it with means commensurate with the threat. Human intelligence should be prioritised, even if technical means should of course not be neglected.

The military should also be adapted with a view, in particular, to strengthening our remote theatre intervention capability. Our budgetary choices should be reconsidered in the light of this requirement.

Referring lastly to our domestic security within the Schengen area, the European Union's action should be better coordinated and a high level of security maintained, particularly regarding air transport.

To better combat international terrorism, better knowledge of it is required. For this purpose, in order to pursue the analysis of the world as it stands after 11 September 2001, our committee suggests the creation of a parliamentary information committee.

The 21st century world is particularly worrisome because events are less foreseeable. For the security of France and Europe, for our values and for peace in the world, we must show we are determined in combating threats and at the same time open to all forms of cooperation. Our defence instrument should in particular be adapted to the risks of an unstable international environment.

Mr Hubert Védrine, Minister for Foreign Affairs - In the wake of the unprecedented attack of 11 September 2001, I share the feelings of deep reprobation which have been expressed and I make a call for solidarity, for today and for tomorrow.

The United States has shown its vulnerability at the very place where it was least envisageable and such an upheaval cannot be without consequences on the domestic policy of all States. Terrorism cannot take place without calculation, even wild and criminal calculation. Isn't the aim today to bring about the hyped ‘clash of civilisations’? History teaches us how terrorism aims at causing confrontation between blocks.

One thing is sure—President Bush announced the fact moreover—the United States will take retaliatory action. This is in keeping with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter on legitimate defence. Similarly, we will be within the framework of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty once it has been confirmed that the attack was organised from outside. Yet prudence is the watchword for the moment and solidarity will not prevent, in due time, each party from determining its own action on the basis of the needs of the moment. This applies in particular to the use of armed force. The United States, which is examining several hypotheses, hasn't asked us for anything yet. When the time comes, the President of the Republic and the Government will decide on the action to be taken to concretise the solidarity our country immediately proclaimed.

But over and beyond possible retaliation, there is the broader issue of combating terrorism. The fight may be preventive, or radical if it gets to grips with the roots of the evil; it may present a military dimension. But it must also take place from day to day and it then takes on a police, legal and financial form. In this respect, France presented last year to the United Nations a text aimed at combating the funding of international terrorism, and I will present at the next UN General Assembly several proposals aimed at making it directly applicable.

The world's problems, revealed so resoundingly in Genoa and Durban, remain after the fateful 11 September that changes the strategic situation. All major crises lead to a redistribution of the balance of power and political upheavals, but the stakeholders then seize individually the opportunity to reach their permanent goals. Attention must therefore be paid to the ‘upheaval’ notion. The attitude of the allies of the United States, of Israel and even of other countries—I was in Moscow this morning—will depend on what the Americans choose to do. On the principle of combating terrorism, there is general agreement, even beyond the Americans' allies. Russia, China, and nearly all Arab leaders have condemned the attacks. The American State Secretary has been able to speak of a ‘world coalition’. Surely this is one more reason to make peace in the Middle East?

The French authorities are determined to face this major crisis in a spirit of solidarity and cohesion. We must all show clear-sightedness, calm and a sense of responsibilities.

Mr Daniel Vaillant, Minister of the Interior - On this day of national mourning I wish to share the sorrow of the American people. I am thinking of the innocent victims and their families. I have a special thought for the policemen and firemen who died or were injured while rescuing victims.

These appalling acts of terrorism cannot but inspire horror, anger and indignation. Let's be careful, however, of not confusing this legitimate reaction with hatred of the other, of not confusing fundamentalist terrorism with Islam.

All of us together have the duty of protecting national cohesion. As soon as I learnt of this tragedy I offered to make our search and rescue teams available to our American friends. Three teams have been mobilised and are on standby pending agreement from the American authorities.

Even if there are no identified threats against our country we must be vigilant and cautious to ensure security for the French. That's why the Prime Minister decided, on my proposal, to introduce on Tuesday 11 September at 17:00 the strengthened ‘Vigipirate’ plan.

As you know, this plan is aimed at preventing threats and reacting against actions likely to be engaged in by terrorists.

The ‘strengthened Vigipirate’ procedure has already been implemented in September 1995 and in December 1996 following the attacks committed in our country.

This plan had not been formally closed but had in fact been operating at the low level since 1997.

The plan has therefore been reactivated at the highest level.

As of the evening of 11 September I gave three main instructions to the prefects: strengthen surveillance and controls around American and Israeli diplomatic premises and in airports, stations, public transport and public buildings that may be targets; convene and raise the awareness of directors of public or private establishments receiving many people; and meet the leaders of the various communities in order to take measures to avoid inter-community clashes and ensure security at places of worship.

In such circumstances there is always the risk that provocative acts may be directed against cultural buildings. By implementing the ‘Vigipirate’ plan precise answers have been given in protection terms. These measures are all the more necessary since we are approaching two key moments of the year for Judaism—Rosh Ashana and Yom Kippour.

I myself met yesterday the representatives of the Jewish and Muslim communities and I wish to pay homage here to their sense of responsibilities.

Immediately after these talks I gave specific instructions to the prefects.

Moreover the prefects are in direct and permanent contact with the mayors for the implementation of the plan locally. The prefects have already convened their institutional partners and economic and social players.

Referring to the means implemented, the operational centre of the Ministry of the Interior and the zonal centres were activated as early as Tuesday evening. At national level, supplementary teams have been mobilised to strengthen state security and national police force action: 2 360 CRS (State security police force members) and 1 300 policemen are today assigned to ‘Vigipirate’ and 910 soldiers have strengthened the police.

For Paris and the Paris region, this additional manpower represents 1 000 CRS officers and anti-riot police, as well as 600 soldiers, without counting the mobilisation of all the Ile-de-France police services, in other words the equivalent of 5 000 men permanently on the spot.

Regarding the policemen, on Thursday morning I received their trade union organisation leaders to inform them of the measures taken and the consequences of the introduction of the ‘strengthened Vigipirate’, which will require an additional effort on their part, likely to last. They all agreed to the measures taken to ensure security for the French.

I wish, in front of you, to express again my confidence in the national police which has always faced up to its missions, particularly when the circumstances are exceptional and has thus managed to live up to the expectation of the French.

I also convened on Wednesday morning the interministerial antiterrorist committee and I am kept informed all the time of how the situation changes.

I can assure you of the strong mobilisation of our intelligence services which are working in an excellent spirit of cooperation with the American services and those of other European countries. You will understand I can't say any more about this.

To ensure the plan has been effectively implemented I have been to meet personnel in the field and yesterday I convened the Ile-de-France prefects. Following these contacts, and in order to maintain intact the operational capacity of the security forces, I asked for the postponement or cancellation of several events taking place on the public highways and using a lot of the police force. In agreement with my colleague from the Ministry of Culture I therefore decided to postpone the Journées du Patrimoine (Heritage Days) as well as the Technoparade.

Further, at my meeting with the various religious communities I called for the greatest caution so as not to create situations likely to cause tensions, particularly between communities.

In conclusion, I can see firstly that our country has the capacity to cope with an exceptional situation. The State services and also mayors and all the public-law or private-law corporations sharing responsibility in security matters have shown their remarkable capacity to react and take the appropriate measures without delay. Referring more particularly to the police services, I wish to emphasise the major asset formed in these circumstances by the existence of a national police force: unity of command and the possibility of immediately deploying means where necessary.

Second lesson: whatever the level of mobilisation of the public services, the security of the French depends also on each and everyone's behaviour. Vigilance, calm and self-control, spirit of responsibility—these are the essential qualities the French showed once again.

This public-spiritedness will be our main strength in the days and weeks to come.

Mr Alain Richard, Minister of Defence - I wish to share the emotion aroused by these heinous crimes before reaffirming our determination to beat back the terrorist threat. The armed forces, as you know, are participating in strengthening general security. Most of the plan is turned towards protecting the public and places where they gather. Military support was almost immediately brought in. The police force has strengthened the plan with its anti-riot units whereas its permanent squadrons have raised their readiness level. We have also introduced a strengthened air defence system characterised by particularly rapid reaction times—the planes of our fighter air force can intervene if any aircraft is heading forward in a way that spells immediate danger.

We have also made available to the Americans emergency support and intervention means so as to help the professionals at work in New York.

Now is not the time to set out the choices our country may make as far as armed action is concerned. Mr Védrine told you again what we announced yesterday to the Atlantic Alliance Council. We are bound by the Treaty which is consistent with the United Nations Charter to which its Article 5 refers. The decisions taken within the Alliance framework are national decisions.

We must engage in very close cooperation to gather and confirm all the useful information, as well as to detect the risks of terrorist attacks at international level. As stated by Chairman Quilès we should work on strengthening in the future our intelligence capacity in order to stave off terrorist attacks in the offing. Such aggressions show the vulnerability of open democratic societies which will not renounce their values in combating terrorism.

It is still useful and still of interest to prolong the recent progress made by the defence Europe which will be, whatever happens, a key element of the balance of forces against crime.

Mr President - Before giving the floor to the group speakers, thank you for such large attendance. This meeting is therefore taking place in somewhat difficult material conditions but we couldn't meet in the hemicycle...

Mr Pierre Lelouche - What a pity!

Mr President - ...because that could have been seen as misuse of procedure: I couldn't have let it be believed I was convening Parliament in an extraordinary session.

Mr Pierre Lequiller - I express here the immense emotion and the stupefaction of the deputies of the DL group following the attacks which affected the heart of the United States, a friend country whose distress we feel as our own. This heartfelt solidarity must clearly lead to solidarity in action and, from this viewpoint, we approve the declarations by the Head of State and the policy he defined.

Tuesday's events mark a watershed in the history of international relations; our references have been shaken; we must draw the lessons.

The first lesson concerns military strategy. We are faced with a conflict of a new type: it is no longer a matter of war between identified States but of a fight against a multiple enemy, elusive, with complex and opaque networks, and enjoying State complicities that are sometimes very serious. This dimension, which we have known since the Cold War, has now tragically materialised.

The second lesson is that we must adapt our policies to this new situation. As we have seen, even the American intelligence services were not sufficient to combat this terrorism. Faced with the globalisation of terrorism we must answer with strengthened cooperation against terrorism with, probably, a structure integrated in NATO that would be part and parcel of the international coalition desired yesterday by Colin Powell.

The third lesson is that this dramatic but historic opportunity must be seized to relaunch in a strong manner the European defence policy, insisting in particular on intelligence.

Lastly, domestic security must be entirely rethought amid terrorism of a new type based on unappeasable logistics and human sacrifice. A new threat requires new readiness.

I therefore wish to know how the Government intends to make our air space secure, and how it intends to rethink the protection of highly populated sites and nuclear power stations against possible air attacks.

In the shorter term, there is no ambiguity about our desire for France to participate with its allies, pursuant to Article 5 of the NATO Treaty, in retaliatory operations whose aims shall be defined in complete cooperation with us. Global diplomatic action no doubt requires reactivation of the UN with which the United States fortunately appears ready to cooperate more closely. France must spare no pains to keep the international community on our side so that the war against superterrorism is understood and approved by the greatest number of States.

Mr Edouard Balladur - I of course share the emotion expressed by the previous speakers. The world is today in an extraordinarily new situation resulting from the internationalisation of communication means and technical progress. The danger is not only that which we believed existed, it stems from a terrorism that is most difficult to combat owing to its ubiquity and elusiveness. Yet that must be our goal even if it is neither easy nor swift.

Who should lead this fight? The UN has the responsibility of determining the general rules. But the organisation needs a secular arm, which should be the greatest possible number of States. It could be the Security Council, the five permanent members, or failing that NATO. But let's not delude ourselves, if we don't manage to find a solution, it will be the United States. Against whom should action be taken? States? That would be easier but nobody knows which. Or else organisations? Probably action will have to be taken against both.

How should we act? Public opinion and politicians alike feel there should be no confusing terrorists with the religious or national groups they stem from. Precision is required in combating terrorism!

The causes of tension must be reduced as much as possible, therefore special interest must be taken in three conflict zones close to us: the Balkans, eastern Europe and the Middle East. It is time that the international community takes decisions and exercises strong pressure to impose a lasting peace.

Lastly, what type of military actions should be taken? No means is excluded a priori but it is not known against whom, where or how to strike. These actions shall be compatible with the principles of international law and respect human rights as far as possible, even if that will be difficult at times.

The world has suddenly changed. It is no longer necessary to question ourselves about the existence of globalisation of which we had above all seen the economic aspects. Now we have been confronted with the considerable technical and military implications it comprises.

Similarly, NATO—let's not delude ourselves—is again going to become the secular arm we need. In the name of complete solidarity with the American people, the RPR would like our country to take part in an international action coordinated and modulated in keeping with our objectives. Nothing should be excluded a priori but that does not mean everything should be allowed automatically.

I welcome the image of cohesion given by the executive since the past three days. In these difficult circumstances we must do our utmost to keep that image.

Mr Jean-Marc Ayrault - The French authorities have shown the solidarity of our nation with the United States and with the American people. The socialist deputies fully share, like all the French, these expressions of solidarity.

After this tragedy with its planet-wide impact, retaliation is at the heart of our questions. We feel it is necessary, like the fight against terrorism, but that cannot deprive France of its freedom of appreciation. European and international institutions have an essential role to play.

As reminded by the Prime Minister, there is no question of setting out on a crusade which would cause a new planet-wide fracture. Care should be taken when speaking in public, at national and international level, to exercise restraint and moderation. There isn't on one side Western democracies and on the other side a fundamentalist East. Let's not fall in the machiavellian trap set by the terrorists. Islam should not be confused with fundamentalist terrorism. Let's not erect a Berlin wall across the planet. We must be together in the implacable fight against fanaticism, obscurantism, and terrorism but also to promote tolerance, respect for beliefs, justice, development and peace. We must spare no efforts to settle lasting conflicts, in the first place in the Middle East.

France must be steadfast in intent and united in this ordeal.

The State has shown its unity, assurance and calm as seen by the French with the strengthening of the Vigipirate plan, which has avoided mass psychosis. But legitimate concerns remain.

We should refrain from stigmatising or from making abusive and humiliating generalisations.

People pointing a finger at others of different origin, faith or skin colour should be given a ticking off and, where applicable, punished.

There should no fracture at world level or in the Republic. We are all French citizens, with equal rights and duties.

We all have the same enemy—terrorism which foments mass murder, fanaticism which seeks to wipe out our values.

Mr Minister of the Interior, you have announced a certain number of measures. Can you specify those you intend to take so that civil peace and unity of the Republic are preserved and even strengthened in this ordeal? The National Assembly may also take initiatives to contribute to this end.

Mr Alain Bocquet - The Communist parliamentarians irrevocably condemn the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks against New York and Washington.

Showing complete solidarity with the American people, they firstly wish to express their compassion to the thousands of victims and their families amid what until then was unthinkable for them and which plunges them into stupefaction and incomprehension.

As soon as the events were announced Robert Hue expressed this solidarity and our indignation at these odious and barbaric acts against innocent civilians.

We too said we fully supported the declarations made on behalf of France by the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister.

The appalling images retransmitted by television channels deeply affected each and everyone us as a crime against humanity.

Today, as thousands of rescuers and volunteers—whom we admire and support—are engaged in a desperate race against time, calm and responsibility are the order of the day.

The American people sets us an example of dignity in this terrible adversity. It is our duty to help them.

We must spare no efforts to seek out and punish the instigators and abettors of these attacks; each State shall formally undertake not to offer them refuge.

Will the international community, until now almost unanimous, have to wait on the pleasure of a few individuals calling for a war by the West against unidentified people or States? Will it have to accept unilateral decisions?

By irrevocably condemning terrorism, which no excuse can ever justify, we are also calling for a world of peace to be built so that never again will we be faced with such an abomination. To our mind it is up to public opinion to express itself in order to avoid errors and spiralling events with unforeseeable consequences. The solutions are above all of a political nature. For we will not eradicate terrorism by adding violence to violence, hatred to hatred.

Similarly we should be wary of those who, under the cover of security, put forward political projects which would call into question the rights and freedoms of wage-earners and citizens and would contribute to the development of racism and hatred of the other.

I thank the President of the National Assembly for having taken this initiative which allows us to hear the Government and to unreservedly affirm the National Assembly's solidarity with the American people.

France must spare no efforts within European bodies and the UN whose authority should be strengthened, to create the conditions allowing terrorism to be effectively combated.

Yet the gravity of the situation would require Parliament to convene in extraordinary session so that the decisions can be taken in consultation with Parliament as a whole.

Mr Pierre Lellouche - Exactly.

Mr Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres - This dramatic attack gives rise to emotion which will last as we remember the hatred, massacre of innocent people and the icy challenge to the superpower America. On behalf of the UDF, I wish to say that the answer to hatred should not be hatred but determination to act militarily and politically to ensure our domestic and foreign security. This intentional barbarity, this premeditated crime against humanity have given rise to some unacceptable reactions. Some feel that such exactions are legitimate.

The condemnations expressed by heads of State and government are not always unanimously shared by their nations. Others have confused a few fanatics with the entire Muslim community; some shameful declarations against Muslims, Jews and Christians have been made again only too easily.

France and Europe must show that the path they choose is that of a community that respects personal rights and freedoms, yet without giving lessons because we too have engaged in barbaric acts in the 20th century.

Together we should tell our American friends we fully support them and are committed to combating international terrorism.

We must therefore meet four obligations. Firstly, we must show our solidarity with the American people which has paid a heavy tribute to freedom. Secondly, we must show a spirit of responsibility, which requires a strengthening of Europe's diplomatic, military and political strength, more than ever necessary for peace in the world and in the Middle East. Thirdly, we must demonstrate our clear-sightedness and determination to guarantee France's security everywhere and to re-establish public authority throughout the Republic. Concerns remain over fears of reprisals after legitimate retaliation. Fourthly, we have a duty of telling the truth which rules out the designation of a scapegoat. To master a new type of war repentance is not required but the will-power to act.

These four obligations lead me to raise an equal number of questions.

In what framework are we going to exercise our solidarity, and to what extent, whereas the operations to be carried out need secrecy to be effective? The United States has not asked us for anything yet but everything is possible.

What message are France and Europe going to send to promote the Middle East peace process and what initiatives are they going to take to this end?

What precautions are we going to take and how is our domestic security system perhaps to be revised?

Lastly, what new defence means for France are we going to ask Parliament for?

Given the strong obligations we must meet, these are the questions which the UDF group asks the Government.

Mr Gérard Charasse - There are no words to describe our horror over the act of war perpetrated against the United States and, in actual fact, against the whole world.

The RCV group shares the message of friendship and solidarity which the President of the Republic gave the American people and approves the measures adopted by the Government and the reactions of the Prime Minister and the President of the Republic. In this ordeal we are alongside our counterparts, representatives and senators. The United States has suffered an unfair, blind, unpardonable attack and we are with the country in its grief, just as we will be with it when the time comes to demonstrate the determination of States—without any blindness, confusion or Manicheism. The path will be difficult because the enemy has no face other than that of hatred. But we have the hope that the common foreign and security policy will be recognised as a necessity—please think about that.

Mr Daniel Vaillant, Minister of the Interior - A few words on my field of activity, domestic security. The Vigipirate plan meets a concern for precaution and deterrence. It should not cause psychotic reactions but, quite the contrary, reassure by a massive, widespread, mobile presence in the form of mixed patrols of policemen and soldiers. The prefects have taken the necessary initiatives to avert any provocation and any confrontation between communities. I feel entirely reassured because I myself received yesterday representatives of the Jewish and Muslim communities: the CRIF (board of Jewish institutions in France) has cancelled the planned event and Rector Boubakeur has formally disavowed violence by repeating that Islam is life and not death. But domestic security is not really this afternoon's debate.

Mr Pierre Lellouche - It should be the debate!

Mr President - Let's not forget the dignity of this moment. The debate can resume later.

Mr Daniel Vaillant, Minister of the Interior - I in no way intend to dodge the issue and we will take it up whenever you want. I would merely like to add that domestic security is also a European issue and that police cooperation should be strengthened in order better to control borders and monitor arms trafficking in particular. Our constant concern is to control migratory flows in order to promote integration and avert clashes between communities.

Mr Hubert Védrine, Minister for Foreign Affairs - Mr Balladur and Donnedieu de Vabres have asked in what form solidarity should be exercised. For the moment we have expressed our solidarity and this has been highly appreciated by the Americans. But they have not yet chosen how they will react and, depending on the choices they make, they will either need our help or not. We will assess in due time any requests they make. Referring to the fight against terrorism, the UN will have a role to play. But we should not only punish but also avert and eradicate the underlying reasons, regional and ideological conflicts, and fundings. You rightly insisted on the need to settle the numerous world-wide regional conflicts. That is also the position of all our European partners and I welcome the fact that European diplomacies have drawn far closer in this respect.

Mr Alain Richard, Minister of Defence - Regarding control of the air threat, Mr Lequiller, we have reached the right level for the reaction time once a situation of crisis in any aircraft has been detected by civil aviation. Also you demand a clear attitude on the part of democratic States regarding States abetting terrorism. France meets this requirement.

Mr Balladur spoke of the importance of solving regional conflicts to eradicate terrorist actions. We have been applying ourselves to that end for several years in the Balkans, having recourse to force, if necessary, to overcome crisis situations. Europe is highly involved in these operations and I feel we are acting far better today than merely five years ago.

Mr President - We have just heard the political groups and the answers of the ministers, but the debate does not of course end with this meeting. I invite the chairmen of the standing committees to take matters further, for instance by holding a hearing of the Muslim, Jewish, Protestant and Catholic communities. That would be very useful in observing their reactions and would contribute to analysis.

I would like to thank all those who have taken part for their dignity and sense of responsibilities and for their contribution to analysis work. The specific work which has been done today of course fits in with the customary work by the committees. I know that the next planned meetings will see the hearings of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the new American ambassador to France and, at the beginning of November, Shimon Peres. These meetings will therefore contribute to our analysis and will influence the decisions taken by politicians.

It is time to adjourn the sitting. I am pleased the meeting took place in this hall: that way, instead of seeing the left and the right at odds with each other, all of the assembly was before me united in solidarity and in expressing its emotion.

The sitting was adjourned at 16:35.