"Iraq's Devoted Allies" [editorial, Jan. 20] is unfair in presenting France's position on the Iraqi question.

Working closely with its Security Council partners, France put forward a number of proposals after UNSCOM withdrew from Iraq in December 1998 in order to break the deadlock and bring about conditions that would let international inspectors return. The main goal is to resume monitoring and get the inspectors back; if this aim is to go beyond mere wishful thinking, the monitoring must be based on a new system. The U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, or UNMOVIC, has not been set up to work like UNSCOM but better than UNSCOM--that is, with professionalism and independence. That is the whole point of resolution 1284. Over the past few weeks, France suggested to the U.N. secretary general the names of several independent, internationally recognized disarmament experts to head UNMOVIC. The aim is to find a nominee who is able to ensure that the inspections resume in Iraq.

This is the only solution that can strengthen the Security Council's authority and credibility on this issue, one of France's main goals since the outset. What has weakened the Security Council is precisely its inability to carry out inspections in Iraq since December 1998.

FRANCOIS DELATTRE

Director, Press and Information Office

Embassy of France

Washington