french were right all along

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    PARIS, France (CNN) -- French authorities Thursday expressed "deep concern" over the military operations in Iraq, the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

    The French "hope strongly that all efforts will be made to prevent the local population from suffering further" and "call on the countries of the region to refrain from any move that would aggravate the situation," the statement said.

    Authorities hope the conflict "which has just begun will end as soon as possible."

    Officials "continue to be particularly attentive to the security of French people abroad and are following the developing situation with the greatest attention."

    France's National Assembly briefly suspended its Thursday session in a symbolic protest, with deputies denouncing an "illegitimate and dangerous war," Reuters said.

    In a televised address, French President Jacques Chirac said the war would have "serious consequences for the future," Reuters reported.

    "France regrets this action taken without the approval of the United Nations," said Chirac, who had threatened to veto any U.N. resolution that led to war.

    "I hope these operations are as fast as possible, with the least fatalities, and that they do not lead to a humanitarian catastrophe.

    "No matter how long this conflict lasts, it will have serious consequences for the future. We must join with our allies and the whole international community to deal together with the challenges that await us."

    Earlier, the French government said it was stepping up security against feared terrorist strikes on its soil, Reuters reported.

    A large police presence was deployed around the U.S. Embassy and the neighboring Place de la Concorde in central Paris, with up to 20 police trucks lined up in front of the building and metal barriers all round the embassy.

    The interior ministry said it was deploying a further 500 soldiers to join the regular police force and an existing deployment of 300 soldiers in surveillance at train stations and other public areas deemed at risk, Reuters said.

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