5 October 2003

Poland Apologizes for French Missiles Report

WARSAW/ROME (Reuters) - Poland apologized to France on Saturday for claiming that its troops had found advanced French-made missiles in Iraq that had been produced this year.

The report sparked strong criticism from French President Jacques Chirac, who called it wrong and drawn up without proper checks.

However, neither Polish nor French authorities denied that the Roland-type anti-aircraft weapons were discovered near the Iraqi town of Hilla in a zone controlled by the Polish-led military force.

'Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski expresses regret concerning the information on the alleged date of the production of these missiles,' the ministry said in a statement, adding that a investigation had been ordered.

The Polish Defense Ministry said on Friday that Polish troops in Iraq had discovered four French-made Roland missiles, which are part of short-range air defense systems in many countries including France and Germany.

Ministry spokesman Eugeniusz Mleczak told Reuters the missiles were manufactured in 2003, but the French Foreign Ministry promptly denied that, saying production of the most modern Roland 3 rocket ended in 1993.

'There could not be any 2003 missiles because those missiles have not been manufactured for 15 years,' Chirac told a news conference at a European Union summit in Rome.

'I believe the Polish soldiers have created confusion that could have been avoided with thorough verification,' he said, adding that he had made the point to Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller 'in a friendly but frank and firm way.'

Why, I wonder, did the Poles report that a missile that went out of production in 1993 was still in production in 2003? If the Poles did not have the date it ceased production, I find it hard to believe the ISG did not.

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