PARIS — AFTER three days of contradictory statements, the French government has moved to clear up confusion over the country's military and political objectives in the Gulf war. On Sunday evening, French President Fran,cois Mitterrand spoke on television for the first time since the war began, telling the French that France is indeed prepared to carry out attacks inside Iraqi territory. Mr. Mitterrand also said Iraq's ``military-industrial potential'' must be destroyed, at least until the Iraqi president indicates he is ready to ``give up his prey and his war.''
Mitterrand's 20-minute appearance ended confusion that started just hours after attacks by coalition forces against Iraq began. On Thursday, Defense Minister Jean-Pierre Chev`enement had said that for ``military and political'' reasons, French attacks would take place in Kuwait only and not in Iraq.
Mitterrand said the military assignments that have so far kept French planes out of Iraq are part of a plan drawn up by the allied forces before hostilities began. But those assignments could shift and take France inside Iraq in the future, he said.
Mitterrand's statement follows a dramatic shift in French public opinion in favor of a strong French participation in the war. Various weekend polls show more than two-thirds of the French favor a strong French presence alongside the Americans and the British, although polls from just a week ago showed 55 percent or more opposed to any French participation.
More surprisingly, three-fourths of the French now support the way President Bush has carried out the war's initial phase.