Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, February 12, 2007)

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


CYCLE OF HIGHER EUROPEAN STUDIES

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin will inaugurate the first session in the cycle of higher European studies at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday, February 13. Also there to welcome participants will be Simone Veil, former president of the European Parliament who is sponsoring this year’s class, Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, Minister for the Civil Service Christian Jacob and European Affairs Minister Delegate Catherine Colonna.

The higher European studies cycle, established at the prime minister’s request, is intended for young decision-makers (elected officials, business leaders, union leaders, officials of associations, liberal professions, journalists) from all the European Union member states who wish to improve their knowledge about European procedures and institutions.

The initiative is part of the many practical measures that have been put in place by the government since June 2005 to involve French citizens more closely in what Europe does. The theme for this first cycle is: “Growth, employment and competitiveness in Europe: which new strategies for the internal market?”

The cycle is designed to be compatible with high-level professional responsibilities and proposes “30 days in the heart of Europe” over a 10-month period, alternating conferences, visits, debates with decision-makers in Europe, and the best practitioners in their field. In this context participants will visit Brussels and Strasbourg along with the capitals of member states.

For further information, go to: www.cees-europe.fr/

(…)

IRAN/NUCLEAR ISSUE

Q - What’s your reaction to Mr. Larijani’s statement that Iran is “disposed” to resume negotiations whereas Mr. Douste-Blazy termed the proposal not to introduce material into the centrifuges providing they can still spin “unacceptable”? Is Iran trying to gain time before February 21?

As we’ve said all along, we wish to maintain dialogue. But negotiations can only be envisaged if Iran suspends its uranium-enrichment related activities as demanded in resolution 1737, which was adopted by the Security Council, unanimously, on December 23. We again call on Iran to respond rapidly to the international community’s demands. It is up to Iran to choose between cooperation with the international community or growing isolation.

EU foreign ministers will be discussing the situation today at the general affairs/external relations council in Brussels.

Q - The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mr. Hosseini, denied that Mr. Ahmadinejad had proposed that Iran would not introduce material into the centrifuges so long as they were still functioning. What’s your reaction?

I’ve nothing to add to the previous answer on the nuclear Iranian issue.

As you know, Mr. Solana is due to brief ministers on his weekend meetings at the general affairs/external relations council today. Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy and European Affairs Minister Delegate Catherine Colonna will also be speaking at the press briefing after the meeting.

AFGHANISTAN

Q - Is it because of a NATO request that France has sent the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle to the Indian Ocean to take part in the campaign in Afghanistan?

France is traditionally engaged in that part of the world in a national capacity and by virtue of bilateral agreements.

If necessary, these assets can be mobilized to provide support to operations in progress, specifically those of the International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.

For operational details about the mission assigned the Charles de Gaulle, I suggest you contact the Defense Ministry.

IRAQ

Q - What’s your reaction to the increase in anti-Iranian rhetoric on the part of the US Administration, especially the allegations that Tehran is supplying arms to Shiite militias in Iraq?

I’ll let you be the judge of your assessment of the US comments with regard to Iran’s alleged role on Iraqi territory.

As far as we are concerned, we call on all the neighboring countries of Iraq to play a constructive role so as to contribute to stabilizing the country./.

Embassy of France, February 12, 2007