Daily Press Briefing

Statements made by
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson
(excerpts)

(Paris, March 7, 2007)

[Please note that only the original French text issued by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs may be considered official.]


VISIT TO GENEVA

Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy will go to Geneva on Thursday, March 8.

He will have a meeting with WHO director general Margaret Chan in order to discuss the partnership between UNITAID and WHO and the future framework agreement between France and WHO.

The minister will chair a meeting of the international “diplomacy and health” group.

Lastly, he will chair the third board meeting of UNITAID.

(…)

FRANCE/KUWAIT/UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy will be in Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates on March 10 and 11, 2007 in the context of an official trip.

The minister will arrive in Kuwait on March 10. He will be received by Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, Emir of Kuwait, and Emirate Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammed al-Sabah. He will be received for dinner by Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah.

The visit comes in the context of the important visits to France in recent months by the Minister of the Diwan Sheikh Nasser Saban al-Ahmad al-Sabah, Emirate Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammed al-Sabah. and Sheikh Sabah, Emir of Kuwait at the end of last year.

The intensity and frequency of visits between France and Kuwait attest to the quality of our bilateral relations which were given new impetus last year. Our two countries have regular political dialogue. Trade between France and Kuwait is growing rapidly.

The minister will then visit the United Arab Emirates. On March 11, in Abu Dhabi, he will open the proceedings of the 15th joint France-Emirates commission with Sheikh Abdallah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Foreign Minister of the federation. He will meet the principal political leaders of the United Arab Emirates.

The United Arab Emirates are France’s foremost economic partner in the Middle East. They absorb one third of our exports to the region. France has a bilateral trade surplus--ranking, sixth--with that country. In addition the United Arab Emirates have become an important partner in the educational and cultural domains as you can see from the inauguration of a branch of the Sorbonne at Abu Dhabi and the signing of an agreement on the founding of a museum bearing the name, “Louvre Abu Dhabi.”

The meetings will focus on political and economic matters of common interest.

GEORGIA/FRANCE

European Affairs Minister Delegate Catherine Colonna will have a meeting with Georgian State Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Giorgi Baramidze at the Quai d’Orsay on Wednesday, March 7, at 3:30 p.m.

The two ministers will discuss deepening relations between France and Georgia and will sign a convention to prevent double taxation and tax fraud between our two countries.

The two ministers will also discuss the development of relations between Georgia, the European Union and NATO.

IRAQ

Once again, a wave of deadly attacks struck Iraq yesterday, leaving many victims and hundreds of injured among the pilgrims going to Kerbala.

In the face of these barbaric acts, France expresses its horror and utter condemnation. It assures the victims’ families and the Iraqi authorities of its deep compassion.

It calls on all communities to work for national reconciliation so as to allow Iraq to return to peace and security.

SAUDI ARABIA

Q - Can you tell us more about the warning from the Saudi authorities about the risk of new attacks by the group responsible for the attack against four French citizens on February 24? What group is it?

As it says on our travel advisory, “Conseils aux Voyageurs,” the terrorist risk remains high in Saudi Arabia. In the circumstances our embassy in Riyadh is assembling all pertinent information from our compatriots in Saudi Arabia and repeating its usual warnings to remain alert and the measures that should be taken.

I’ve no details about the nature of the threat which our embassy has been informed of—it’s not aimed specifically at France.

Q - Is it from al Qaeda?

I refer you to my previous answer.

ETHIOPIA

Q - Do you, like the British, suspect Afar rebels in the kidnapping of five Westerners in Ethiopia?

We remain in constant contact with the British authorities in London and Addis Ababa, and with the local authorities.

As always in cases like this, we prefer to maintain the utmost discretion. I will refrain from any comment on the suppositions you mentioned./.

Embassy of France, March 7, 2007