Daily Press Briefing

Statements made by
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson

(Paris, April 11, 2007)

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


Nelly Olin, Minister for Ecology and Sustainable Development, and Alain Juppé, former prime minister and chair of the honorary committee of the Paris Conference for world ecological governance, will lead the French delegation to the first ministerial meeting of the “group of friends of the United Nations Environment Organization” (UNEO), which will be held in Agadir on Thursday and Friday, April 12 and 13, 2007. They will be accompanied by Laurent Stefanini, ambassador delegate for the environment and a member of the honorary committee of the Paris Conference.

The meeting follows on the Paris Conference for world ecological governance, held February 2 and 3, which led to a consensus on the need to establish the UNEO. The Paris Conference brought about a broad mobilization, reflected in the Paris appeal and the establishment of a group of “friends of the UNEO,” which is today supported by 52 countries.

About 20 ministers will be attending the meeting in Agadir. NGOs, businesses, individuals, the heads of organizations with competence for environmental issues (UNEP, UNIDI) and representatives of international financial institutions have also been invited.

The group of friends of the UNEO was formed to support the transformation of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) into a United Nations environment organization (UNEO) in the context of the reforms at the United Nations. It is to contribute actively to the consultations in the UN General Assembly on strengthening international governance of the environment, and promote this question in all relevant international and regional bodies, in consultation with all the actors concerned.


Q - Do you have any new information about the situation of the two French nationals kidnapped a week ago in Afghanistan? Have the kidnappers made any demands yet?

We have no new information about the situation of our two compatriots and the people accompanying them. We remain fully mobilized, in Paris and Kabul, in liaison with the Afghan authorities so as to obtain their release.

Q - RAI showed a video Tuesday evening showing the circumstances in which Daniele Mastrogiacomo’s Afghan driver was killed. Is France worried Afghanistan will start becoming like Iraq with kidnappings, staged scenarios and executions?

I have no comment on the showing of the video.

As for the development of the security context, we formally advise against travel to Afghanistan given the high risk of attacks and kidnappings throughout the country. Our compatriots who are there are advised to exercise extreme caution, limit travel and remain in close contact with the French Embassy in Kabul.


Q - Could you clarify Iran’s position within EURODIF? Is it true that Iran holds 10%? Does Iran benefit from a transfer of technology from EURODIF? And also dividends beyond the 17 to 18 million euros in 2006?

As you know, the present framework for French-Iranian relations in the nuclear field, and more specifically enrichment, dates back to the French-Iranian agreement of 1974 as amended in 1991.

The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) holds 40% of SOFIDIF (with AREVA-NC holding 60%). SOFIDIF owns 25% of the stock of EURODIF SA (the remaining 75% being held by AREVA-NC and its European partners).

More detailed information about SOFIDIF and EURODIF can be obtained by consulting the AREVA annual report for 2005.

Under the 1991 French-Iranian agreements, Iran has no access to technology and no right to take enriched uranium.

As the AREVA annual report indicates, “SOFIDIF’s activity is limited to taking part in the work of EURODIF’s supervisory board, receiving its share of the dividends distributed by EURODIF and distributing it to its own shareholders.”

However, the AEOI is one of the entities designated in resolution 1737 whose funds have been frozen and with whom all financial relations are prohibited. In application of resolution 1737 and pending the adoption of a community ruling, the prime minister issued a decree on February 8, 2007 regulating financial relations with Iran (Journal Officiel of February 9). Article 1 of the decree stipulates that exchange operations, movements of capital, and settlements of all kinds between France and abroad, made by and on behalf of the physical and moral persons listed in resolution 1737, are subject to prior authorization from the minister for the economy.

The payment of a SOFIDIF dividend to the AEOI obviously comes under that ruling. In application of resolution 1737, the French authorities are therefore not issuing authorization for the transfer of this dividend to the AEOI.

Once a community ruling on the application of resolution 1737 is adopted by the Council of the European Union, the funds concerned, which are blocked today, will be subject to a community freeze.


Q - After the letter sent by Lebanon’s prime minister to the UN yesterday, do you think that the conditions now exist for setting up an international tribunal under chapter 7?

We’ve taken note that Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora sent a letter on behalf of the Lebanese government to the UN secretary-general. It is now up to the secretary-general to act on it.

With regard to setting up an international tribunal, our position has been stated many times by President Chirac. We wish to see an agreement among all the Lebanese leading to the actual establishment of the tribunal. However, in the event the deadlock persists over its establishment, France as a permanent member of the Security Council, believes the international community will have to assume their responsibilities.


Q - Are you in favor of sending international buffer forces to the borders between Chad and Sudan after the armed forces of the two countries clashed?

France is particularly concerned about the recent incidents on the border between Chad and Sudan. They show once again the extent of the regional dimension of the crisis in Darfur and underline the urgency of deploying the hybrid force in Darfur and a UN operation in eastern Chad.

We call on the authorities of Chad and Sudan to show restraint and to return to the commitments of the Cannes Declaration and more recently the Tripoli Declaration. It is essential to prevent an escalation at the border, which would compromise the peace efforts in Darfur for a long time and exacerbate the suffering of the people of Darfur and eastern Chad.


Q - How do you evaluate the situation in Morocco after the three attacks in Casablanca yesterday?

Yesterday’s events in Casablanca show the challenge of terrorism confronting the entire international community.

The action by the Moroccan police apparently prevented the presumed terrorists from moving to action. An inquiry is under way which will reveal more about their intentions

The Moroccan authorities know they can count on France’s solidarity in the fight against terrorism.


Embassy of France, April 11, 2007