Daily Press Briefing

Statements made by
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson

(Paris, August 7, 2007)

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


Q - What’s the French reaction to the by-elections in Lebanon? Do you think these elections and the results are likely to ease the political situation? Do you have any comment on the election process?

The results of the two legislative by-elections in Lebanon Sunday reflect a democratic and sovereign choice of the Lebanese.

The elections were held in good conditions, and voters were able to go to the polls freely in spite of the attacks and intimidation which democracy in Lebanon was subject to recently.

By filling the seats left vacant by the assassinations of lawmakers Pierre Gemayel and Walid Eido and enabling the two victors to join the ranks of Parliament, these elections attest to the resolve of the Lebanese people to return to normal political life far away from pressure and obstructions.

All these factors reinforce the urgent necessity of resolving the current political crisis in a spirit of dialogue and compromise.

Q - Can you confirm that Ambassador Jean-Claude Cousseran is returning to Beirut on August 21? Is he currently in contact with the Lebanese parties to prepare for the resumption of the dialogue launched at the meetings at La Celle Saint-Cloud and Beirut?

I’ve no information about any upcoming visit to Beirut by Mr. Coussseran. Obviously, as the minister’s special envoy, Ambassador Cousseran is closing following all current developments in Lebanon.


Q - Colonel Qaddafi’s son says that modernizing the hospital in Benghazi will cost France at least 300 million euros. Can you confirm this figure? And what’s your response to his assertion that there was blackmailing of Libya and of Europeans?

The cooperation initiated with Libya on opening the central hospital in Benghazi is an important action in support of modernizing Libya’s health-care infrastructure. We are committed to helping the Libyan authorities who must now equip the hospital with the material means and staff necessary for it to operate according to international standards. We are still at the technical evaluation stage.

Q - How long is the technical evaluation stage going to last? Who’s handling it? Does the French commitment indicate some idea of the extent of the financial contribution? What’s your reaction to the assertions of blackmail?

As I said, we’re at the evaluation stage. A technical mission should be leaving for Libya very soon. I’ve no further comment.


Q - Are there contacts with Venezuela to check whether Ingrid Betancourt is in that country or other demarches with respect to Caracas to obtain her release?

We don’t wish any more than we did yesterday to confirm the rumors going around which are speculation. Naturally we remain mobilized to obtain the release of all the hostages, including our compatriot, Ingrid Betancourt.


Q - About the IMF. Could you tell us whether France, along with Britain and Germany, told an executive board meeting last week that it opposes voting rights reform that would increase the voice of the emerging countries while diminishing that of France and Europe? Did France request that the number of IMF votes be increased 6% for China, India and other emerging countries without a reduction in Europe’s voice?

It is not my place to comment on the technical details of IMF executive board meetings.

A two-step reform was started after the annual meeting in Singapore in September 2006. Several countries have already benefited from an increase in their quotas.

This movement is to be followed in the second phase by a reform of the formula for calculating quotas and further increases in quotas between now and 2008.

France is convinced of the importance of these developments which should better reflect the weight of the emerging and developing countries in the global economy. The question of a greater place for the emerging and developing countries in the governance of the IMF goes beyond quota reform per se. It also concerns aspects such as the diversity of personnel within the institution, the practice of decision-making by consensus and the trustful relationship with the member states.

The appointment of a new director-general at the IMF, a position to which France has presented the candidacy of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, will afford the opportunity to open the debate on all these questions./.

Embassy of France, August 7, 2007