15 February 2007

It may be that President Jacques Chirac is to body language what Shakespeare is to English literature. His enthusiasm comes out and passes through. And why not. The President of France is not just overseeing the affairs of its citizens; he represents a distinct cultural heritage and is a symbol of "l'exclusivite Francaise" and a leader of one of the five Permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

That is why leadership action displayed by President Chirac during January deserves special thanks. He actively hosted a crucial conference on climate change, an issue usually delegated to expert ministers but now gaining crucial relevance in every life across the globe. Not only did he highlight the most pressing aspects but he mobilized official and grass root support. His realistic call to build a strengthened dynamic U.N. Environment mechanism was complimented by a proposal to enshrine an international declaration of human environmental rights. It is worth noting in that regard that it was in Paris also, in 1945, where the pioneering Declaration of Human Rights was announced.

With an equal display of compassion and international leadership, President Chirac chaired an important gathering to reaffirm a commitment of support for the reconstruction of Lebanon. "Paris 3" was a landmark step aimed at helping all the Lebanese, not just one group or party. Several key countries, including the United States represented by Dr. Rice, the U.K. and Saudi Arabia reviewed practical presentations by a team led by Prime Minister Siniora on varied areas of urgent need. Over $7 billion was pledged. On another issue related to Lebanon but of concern to the rest of the world, President Chirac has been an unflinching force behind the quest for justice in the terrorist murder of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Two years have passed since 14 February 2005 as the investigation proceeds slowly and the formation of a court of an international nature remains under discussion. As Mr. Hariri's grieving wife awaits; as his country edges closer to conflict; as his absence is felt in Lebanon and the Arab world; it should be recognized that President Chirac has offered every possible support, explored every avenue and firmly stood like a rock against attempts to defy justice.

As the Presidential campaign in France starts warming up, it is only fair to note the special leadership displayed by a compassionate leader of a crucial country with a unique international heritage. For that, we say: Merci, Monsieur Le President.