Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, November 12, 2007)

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


PAKISTAN

Q - President Musharraf announced he would hold legislative elections before January 9 while maintaining the state of emergency, and the Pakistani authorities intended to bar a “long march” planned by Benazir Bhutto to protest the continued emergency rule in Pakistan. What’s your reaction?

We are following the development of the political situation in Pakistan with the utmost attention and in close liaison with our European Union partners.

We call for the state of emergency to be lifted, the constitution re-established and those arrested released. We recall the importance we attach to respect for the rule of law and public freedoms.

In this context the announcement of legislative elections before January 9 is a positive element. These will have to take place in a transparent and democratic way.

FRANCE/LEBANON

Q - Can you confirm that the minister will be traveling to Beirut this evening from Berlin for a 24-hour visit? Is it a joint visit with his Spanish and Italian counterparts like the last time?

I confirm that Foreign and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner will be in Beirut today and tomorrow. He’ll be arriving in Beirut this evening and will meet with Patriarch Sfeir and the main Lebanese political leaders tomorrow. Following the postponement of the Lebanese parliamentary session of November 21, this new visit by the minister is part of France’s ongoing engagement to further an understanding among the parties for the election of a president with broad support. The minister’s previous visits and that by the Elysée secretary-general are evidence of this engagement.

With regard to your second question, this is not a joint visit with his Spanish and Italian counterparts, but the minister did speak with them by phone this weekend. The three ministers confirmed their wish to maintain close cooperation in this matter.

Q - What new element might Mr. Kouchner have in his effort to help break the deadlock on the presidential election in Lebanon? Did you have an assurance that Syria would take a positive attitude to facilitate the election?

The visit by the foreign and European affairs minister is part of the efforts we’ve been pursuing for several months to foster the search for a solution to the current deadlock in Lebanon. We expect Syria to contribute to such a result by not blocking the achievement of an inter-Lebanese agreement in any way.

Q - Absent a consensus and quorum in parliament, the Hezbollah secretary-general has proposed holding early elections as in Ukraine. Do you have any comment?

As you know, we would like to see the dialogue among the political forces in Lebanon continue. That is why we consider that in general statements to the opposite are to be avoided.

LIBYA

Q - In Libya, 172 passengers were denied permission to leave their aircraft on the grounds that they didn’t have Arabic translations of their passports. Your reaction? What was the Quai d’Orsay’s role in this matter?

An amendment to Libya’s rules regarding entry and departure from the country appears to have gone into effect Sunday, November 11, without prior notification and appears to be retroactive.

Holders of travel documents in which the personal information is not translated into Arabic are no longer allowed to enter Libya or leave its territory.

Our embassy intervened to ensure that the 18 French nationals blocked Sunday evening at the airport in Tripoli were able to leave Monday morning.

The 172 French nationals who landed in Sebha, in southern Libya, on Sunday evening, were not allowed to de-plane. The flight took off again with its 172 passengers and arrived in Paris overnight. In addition 83 French nationals who were unable to leave Sebha were taken care of by their local tour operator last night and were due to be permitted to leave for France during the day.

Our embassy in Tripoli is conferring with the other European embassies to obtain clarifications from the Libyan authorities on the application of the ruling.

We advise travelers who are due to go to Libya either to postpone their trip or to contact the Libyan embassy in Paris and the airlines concerned to ascertain the conditions for being admitted to Libyan territory.

Q - Can you confirm that France refused entry to Libyan officials on Saturday? Might the refusal to admit French passengers to Libya on Sunday be in retaliation for the French refusal?

So far as I know, France has not refused entry to Libyan officials so your question doesn’t come up./.

Embassy of France, November 12, 2007