Daily Press Briefing

Statements made by
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson

(Paris, May 11, 2007)

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


In the interest of contributing to scientific development in southern hemisphere countries in research against infectious diseases, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Pasteur Institute will sign a protocol of agreement on May 14, 2007 at the Pasteur Institute, integrating the international network of Pasteur Institutes more closely in development assistance policy.

The Foreign Ministry and the Pasteur Institute undertake to pool their efforts in countries in the South in order to raise the level of research in these countries in areas covered by the Pasteur Institute.

For instance, the Instituts Pasteur de Paris in Niger, Madagascar and Cambodia are involved in a research program on malaria. In Cambodia, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Guadeloupe and Madagascar, the institutes are working together in the field of tuberculosis. Food security and hygiene involve all the institutes

Each year a convention will establish the amount of annual aid to be provided by the Ministry to the 17 Pasteur Institutes operating in the southern zone. The aid amounts to 270,000 euros at the present time. It covers financing for 26 positions, including three international volunteers.

Regular consultations between the two parties will strengthen the coherence of the action of the Pasteur Institute with the priorities for cooperation pursued by France.


As has been announced, the Albert Londres Prizes will be awarded in Beirut on March 18. I would like to draw your attention to the events that will be organized at this time by the French Embassy in Beirut on the theme of freedom of the press.

On May 17 the three prize-winning documentaries in 2006 will be screened at the cultural center as part of the ‘Ecrans du reel’ festival.

A Samir Kassir room will be inaugurated at the Grand Lycée franco-libanais on Friday, May 18, at 9:15 a.m.; present for the event will be members of the Albert Londres jury and Gisele Khoury, widow of the Franco-Lebanese journalist and a graduate of the school. The same day the prize-winners and jury members will be received at the embassy. The day will conclude with a performance at the cultural center of Planete Londres, a show directed by Vincent Colin,

These various events will be an opportunity to reaffirm France’s commitment to freedom of the press and to pay tribute to Lebanese journalists such as Gebrane Tueni, Samir Kassir and May Chidiac who paid with their lives or their person for their commitment to freedom of the press and freedom of expression. May I remind you that President Chirac presented May Chidiac with the insignia of Chevalier of the Legion of Honor on May 3.


Q - We heard yesterday that there was agreement on going to Chapter 7 regarding the international tribunal. Can you tell us how the process will move forward now?

It’s at the UN where the process will start. It’s at the UN where the information will come from. As you know, we had a report from Nicolas Michel, the UN counsel. We are due to have a presentation by the UN secretary-general following his visit to the region, which will probably address this question. Based on that, the discussions will start and we’ll see how to take the question forward.

Q - But has a decision already been taken on chapter 7 or is it based on this report that you’ll decide whether to go to chapter 7?

We’ll see, as I just said, what the secretary-general has to say. Based on that, we’ll express an opinion and see with our partners the direction we should take.

I’d like to remind you what the Elysée said yesterday after the meeting between President Chirac and the president-elect with Mr. Hariri. President Chirac emphasized the necessity of implementing and respecting all the Security Council resolutions so that justice is done and Lebanon’s stability is assured, especially by the establishment of an international tribunal. The objective is to have this tribunal set up.

We’ll see, based on Ban Ki-moon’s report, what the best way is to achieve this and how the Security Council might intervene.

Q - So recourse to chapter 7 still hasn’t been decided?

It will have to be discussed with our partners. But let’s try to avoid focusing too much on the reference to chapter 7.

Q - And your decision hasn’t been made?

We'll see, based on what we’re told by the secretary-general. Mr. Michel, when he came back from his mission, told us that he’d found obstruction and difficulty in the implementation of the agreement that had been prepared. The idea is to overcome the obstacles so that the objectives in SCR 1664 are reached.

In our thinking it’s not a matter of substituting for Lebanon’s sovereignty or favoring one Lebanese party over another. But on the basis of Mr. Michel’s findings and the report that Ban Ki-moon is to make, to see how we can fully execute the agreement in principle given by Lebanese parties to reach this stage.

Q - How are the Lebanese parties going to reach this stage?

With the help of the Security Council. We’ll have to see how we can inject life into the proposed statute that has been prepared.

Q - Are you worried about the consequences for civil peace in Lebanon?

It’s a question we’ve discussed several times. Some people are talking about this type of consequence. But we are also very sensitive to the consequences that the absence of action would have, and giving up on the establishment of the tribunal.

If we were to give up establishing the tribunal now, it would have consequences first for the international community and its role. And then there would be consequences within Lebanon. It would be the equivalent in a way of giving up the requirement of justice which the international community and a great many Lebanese have always demanded.

When Mr. Michel was there, he didn’t find that the Lebanese parties were opposed to the principle of setting up the tribunal.


Q - Are you expecting anything new from the Lebanese government?

There was already a letter from Mr. Siniora not so long ago. We need to see if the Lebanese authorities wish to make another communication, but the draft statute exists. Mr. Michel’s mission was to review the situation with all the Lebanese parties. We know perfectly well where we are today.


Q - Why do you think the parties are afraid of chapter 7?

Once again, one shouldn’t dwell on this. The important thing for us, whatever the legal formula chosen, is the establishment of the tribunal.



Q - Can you tell us about the rising tensions between the US and Russia over deploying the American missile defense system in the former Soviet countries? What do the Europeans and especially France think?

We’ve spoken about this a number of times.

With regard to relations between the Americans and Russians, I’ve no particular comment. I’ve simply seen that a dialogue has been established. We’ve discussed the missile defense project at the NATO-Russia Council. The Americans, I gather, sent envoys to Moscow to continue a dialogue on these questions. I don’t know whether the word ‘tension’ is the most apt word to describe the situation.

On the French side, we’ve said that we’re not directly involved in the bilateral US project for a missile defense system; and we hoped there would be dialogue on the implications of this project with respect to security, whether with the Europeans or with the Russians.

Q - The Europeans aren’t part of the project, but do you agree with it or not?

We’ve no opposition or reservations with regard to the American project. The Americans consider the project is needed for their security. With regard to our own security, it’s based more on the principle of nuclear deterrence which may in certain cases be supplemented by missile defense assets but which for us are more localized, more on an as-need basis, for example to defend our troops in an operation.

But it is the Americans’ decision, and it’s not our place to oppose it. It’s just that once there are implications for the security of Europeans, the security of the Atlantic Alliance, and when the Russians are also voicing a number of questions, we say it needs to be discussed. But I believe now that it has been extensively discussed. The Americans have explained many times that it is not a system directed against Russia or capable of stopping a nuclear power such as Russia. It is a system, for the Americans, which is directed against a missile threat from countries such as Iran, they say. I leave this to their judgment.


Q - Iran has barred IAEA official from monitoring a nuclear site. Your reaction?

We are disturbed by reports that Iran is reducing cooperation with the IAEA.

This does not seem to us compatible with the demands made in SCR 1737 whereby the Security Council decided that ‘Iran shall provide such access and cooperation as the IAEA requests to be able to verify the suspension…and resolve all outstanding issues, as identified in IAEA reports.’ This is not, subject to the Agency’s confirmation of these reports, compatible either with Iran’s safeguards agreements with the Agency. I would remind you that the AIEA director-general in his report of February 24, written at the Security Council’s request, emphasized the need for satisfactory arrangements. In their absence, the IAEA will not be able to assure us that certain materials have not been diverted for uses other than those Iran claims.

We are now waiting for the IAEA to assess the new situation brought on by the measures Iran has taken and to act accordingly, especially as this decision comes on top of several other Iranian decisions in the past few months tending to reduce its cooperation with the Agency. In particular we hope the IAEA clearly outlines in its May 23 report the new modalities for inspection at Natanz and the way in which they’ve been applied since the last report in February 2007, and the way in which the Agency has implemented the Security Council mandate to move forward on a number of questions that have gone unanswered.

Q - Is this going to make the discussions between the Iranians and European harder?

Obviously it doesn’t create a very favorable backdrop or context. In order to move forward there has to be the proper transparency in relations between Iran and the IAEA. These elements, if confirmed, since for now they are just reports in the press although they come on top of other restrictive measures announced by Iran, these elements do not create a very favorable context for continuing discussions. But as we’ve said repeatedly, the door remains open to dialogue. It may be quite useful for there to be contacts between Mr. Solana and the Iranians. On our side, we are in favor of them even though obviously this kind of Iranian decision is not a step in the right direction.


Q - Can you give us your reaction to Mr. Nikolic’s comments in Serbia and the fact that Serbia has taken over the chair of the Council of Europe?

With regard to Mr. Nikolic, I’ve not seen his latest comments but we did note with concern his election. It’s obviously not a very good signal to have a representative from an ultra-nationalist party elected speaker of the Parliament. We had hoped that the moderate, pro-Europe parties might get together to ensure Serbia’s European future and be able to undertake democratic reforms. The latest news, to be taken with caution does tend to suggest this. There are reports of an agreement among the pro-Europe parties on a government. This needs to be confirmed. If we go in this direction, it meets our expectation and it would be a step in the right direction.

As for Serbia taking the chair of the Council of Europe, the chair rotates in alphabetical order. So there is no way to entrust the chair to another country. But this has to be seen in a positive light. It may be a very good opportunity for Serbia to show that it is ready to continue on the path to democracy, to continue in the direction of Europe and cooperate with the criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia since this remains a very firm demand by the EU and France in particular.

Q - The US announced that Kosovo would be independent before the end of May. Is that also France’s objective?

We won’t put things quite that way. What we’d like, as we’ve said before, is to move forward fairly quickly. There is a draft resolution on Kosovo prepared by the European members of the Security Council with Germany and the US, which should be circulating very soon in New York. We hope now to take the discussion on the draft resolution forward. But it is always a bit risky to prejudge the outcome of talks.

We feel that the Europeans have a clear position on this question, with other members of the Contact Group. We consider that it is a problem which concerns Europe first and foremost. Kosovo is in Europe. It aspires to relations with the EU. So it’s up to the Europeans first to show the way. We hope that the draft resolution will be discussed very soon and that we reach a decision./.

Embassy of France, May 11, 2007