Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, April 13, 2007)

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


IRAQ

France condemns the attack on the Iraqi Parliament, which deliberately targeted elected representatives of the people, as well as the destruction of the al-Sarafiya Bridge, a symbol of the ties between communities. It denounces all the acts of violence that are shedding Iraqi blood and aggravating divisions within Iraqi society.

It assures the families and loved ones of the victims of its deepest compassion and offers its condolences to them, to the Iraqi authorities and to the Iraqi people.

It calls on all Iraqis to mobilize on behalf of stability and unity.

ECOSOC

Cooperation and development minister Brigitte Girardin will attend a special high-level meeting on April 16 organized by the UN’s Economic and Social Council, ECOSOC, with international financial and commercial institutions. Held since 1998, this meeting fosters dialogue between the UN and development professionals.

Ms. Girardin will chair a round table on the effectiveness of aid and innovative development financing. Increasing and improving the effectiveness of public development aid will be debated, with an emphasis on better forecasting. The potential of innovative financing will be discussed, particularly the solidarity contribution on airplane tickets, spearheaded by France, which helps finance the International Drug Purchase Facility, UNITAID, that nearly 30 countries have pledged to implement.

The same day, France will co-host a parallel event on the topic of innovative sources for financing development, in coordination with South Korea, which is chairing the Steering Group on Solidarity Contributions for Development, as well as Chile, which is chairing the Group of Seven, a pioneering group consisting of France, Brazil, Chile, Spain, Germany, Algeria and South Africa, and which has sparked international mobilization on this issue. This event will provide an opportunity to update our partners on the progress achieved in this area.

LEBANON

Q - Can you talk about the presidential declaration being prepared in the UN following up on resolution 1701? It seems there are amendments.

Consultations are continuing in New York. A draft was circulated and Security Council members made observations. We are trying to take them into account because, since this is a presidential declaration, we have to reach a unanimous agreement on the content of this declaration. Contacts are ongoing. The declaration is expected to be adopted in the next few days. I think the consultations will continue today and, if necessary, during the weekend, and that it should be adopted quite soon.

Q - Can the points being negotiated lead to this presidential declaration being transformed into a Council decision, a resolution?

We are continuing to operate on the assumption of a presidential declaration. I think certain delegations have asked for clarifications on certain points. We are going to try and clarify these points.

Q - So the text can still evolve…

Yes, things are evolving, as in any negotiations of this kind.

Q - What are the elements these negotiations are running up against?

I don’t want to go into detail. The text is fine with us because we prepared it, we worked on it with our partners, and we submitted it to the 15 Security Council members. It’s other delegations that need clarification on certain points. I think that’s the case for the assessment mission, for example.

Q - Are you going to be flexible on all the points, or are you going to stick to some points and be flexible on others?

I would be weakening our ambassador’s negotiating options if I told you the points we’re ready to make changes on. As always in this type of discussion, we are trying to consider the various views of the various parties. At the same time, we mustn’t completely dilute the draft, drain it of its substance. There are a certain number of points that are important. Let me remind you that this is the follow-up to SCR 1701, in the wake of the UN secretary-general’s report. It contains a certain number of lessons that we want incorporated into the declaration.

Q - Yesterday the assistant secretary of state Mr. Welch made a statement to the press concerning American fears for the situation of Lebanon’s Christian community. Do you have any comment?

I didn’t see those statements. That concern isn’t specific to one community in particular, even though we have great respect for the Christian community. Our concern is to ensure that Lebanon’s unity and the harmony of its domestic political life can be preserved. We all know the country’s history. We say that it’s in the interest of all Lebanese to strive to preserve the country’s unity, harmonious relations between the communities, and to consolidate Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence. These are things that concern all the Lebanese and Lebanon itself.

Q - You don’t have the same concerns?

Everyone has concerns with respect to the deadlock and the current difficulties in Lebanon. To overcome them, we need a jump-start and action by all the Lebanese.

Q - In this context, why is France insisting so heavily on the establishment of an international tribunal, a project that divides the Lebanese. You preach national unity. Why is France so dead set on this?

I don’t think you’re using the right words here. We’re not dead set on this issue. It’s not a French concern. Let me remind you that this statute was drafted by the international community and approved by the Security Council. The concern for justice is shared by a vast majority of Lebanese. It is in no case a French obsession or a strictly French concern. We’ll see what’s going to happen following Mr. Siniora’s letter. It’s up to the secretary-general to say how he views things, how he intends to proceed with the establishment of this tribunal. Our position is quite simple: It’s that as soon as the establishment of this tribunal has been decided on, it has to be made concrete within a very brief time period. It’s not a matter of being dead set.

Q - Does France believe that presenting this letter with the support of 70 deputies who represent the majority of Parliament is enough for the international community to consider that it’s legal to impose the tribunal without taking the constitutional path?

Having this letter from the Lebanese head of government is important politically. It’s up to the secretary-general to see where we want to go with this. As we’ve said many times, our preferred option is one of an agreement between Lebanon and the UN on the establishment of a tribunal. If it looks like we’re deadlocked, the international community will have to assume its responsibilities.

PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY

Q - Do you have any details on the meeting between the Palestinian finance minister, Salam Fayyad, and Ms. Ferrero-Waldner in Brussels the day before yesterday?

I think the Palestinian finance minister met with Ms. Ferrero-Waldner, who is the EU commissioner in charge of external relations. I think she indicated that as a member of the Commission, she wasn’t in a position to take a definitive stand on such a political subject. She told Mr. Fayyad that the EU would have to take a political decision, which the Commission would then implement. Institutionally speaking, that’s quite correct.

On the French side—and this is the position we’ve begun defending in Gymnich and that we’ll continue to defend at the next Council for General Affairs and External Relations—we believe a chance should be given to the positive dynamic created by the Mecca agreement and by the formation of a national unity government. For us, the time has come for the EU to resume direct financial assistance to that government. That’s what we will stress once again with our European partners. I think President Chirac will have a chance to reiterate this to Mr. Abbas next week.

(…)

WORLD BANK

Q - Do you have any comment on the Wolfowitz affair? The man who heads the World Bank. He’s been preaching transparency and good governance everywhere in the developing world and now seems to have problems in his own house.

I’ve no particular comment. There’s a procedure under way at the World Bank. An ad hoc committee has been set up to look into the conditions for leaving the Bank and also the conditions of employment and pay of Ms. Riza. The ad hoc committee met on April 9 and 10. The board of directors of the World Bank met yesterday, April 12, and as you know, a communiqué was issued saying that the board would be meeting again soon to decide what measures to take, bearing in mind all the implications for the World Bank with regard to good management. I’m quoting from the communiqué the board issued.

We will make our position known to the board of directors since France has a seat there. There are 24 seats at the World Bank board, including France’s, and we’ll announce our position there.

Q - Without asking you if you’re going to ask for Mr. Wolfowitz’s resignation, what’s your position regarding the substance in this matter?

As I said, there’s a committee that’s looking into the matter in the World Bank. So we need to see what the committee findings are. The matter has to be discussed at the board of the IMF. I can’t anticipate the conclusions of the discussions. In general we are obviously committed to transparency in the use of public funds and in the management of the international organizations in which we participate. But as I said, I don’t wish to anticipate the outcome of the board meeting. We should be deciding fairly quickly, I imagine.

Q - Do you think that Mr. Wolfowitz still has the moral authority to continue in the job? Because that’s really where the question is. If it weakens the World Bank, it would be a disservice both to the World Bank and the states dealing with it.

Mr. Wolfowitz is responsible to the board. So it will be for the board to assess whether or not he is in a position to carry out his job. It is probably also up to him to judge the point. But as I said, I don’t wish to anticipate or make a judgment today. Meetings are scheduled, and I believe there’ll be a position fairly quickly.

Q - But in a national capacity you don’t have a position?

The first to know our position will be the board of directors at the World Bank. At the same time, as you no doubt realize, it’s not just a question of a national position. It’s also important to know collectively how we see things. Mr. Wolfowitz is the agent of the countries that make up the World Bank who are represented on the board. So it’s important to see also collectively what decision is made.

Q - What happened is very serious. Mr. Wolfowitz himself admitted publicly that he made a mistake, but isn't there an immediate incompatibility between his conduct and his office as director of the World Bank which requires him to go to Africa and Asia and tell these countries that they have to keep their house in good financial order, with no corruption, no nepotism, no misappropriations?

That was the sense of the previous question about Mr. Wolfowitz’s moral authority and ability to fulfill his mission. But as I said, I don’t have the answer to the question. We’re going to discuss the matter at the board meeting. We also have to see how the affair develops and based on that, the board and Mr. Wolfowitz himself will make a decision as to the best action.

Q - Does Mr. Wolfowitz have your confidence?

Mr. Wolfowitz was chosen for the office. Until further order he holds the office.

Q - Would France’s position today be to try to find some solution whereby Mr. Wolfowitz could stay on or is it already too late?

I cannot tell you today specifically if we want to move in one direction or another. Our position is probably to find out what actually happened. That’s the reason there’s an inquiry. One must also know the details before making an assessment. Next, it’s not the kind of thing that is decided alone or on which we have a national position to air. The matter must be discussed at the board meeting. It’s important to realize that the concern in this matter will be first to ensure that the mission of the World Bank continues in the best possible conditions. It’s the first concern of everyone--to make sure that the World Bank can continue its mission in the fight against poverty and in helping Africa in particular.

(…)

FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM

Q - Concerning the attacks in Algiers and Morocco, are there any applicable French-Moroccan or French-Algerian provisions that apply, or are there any perhaps within the EUROMED framework? Is there a mechanism that is automatically applied or does the Algerian government have to request it?

What’s very important is international cooperation in the fight against terrorism. There is very strong bilateral cooperation among European intelligence services. There’s also multilateral cooperation on the European scale in all of Europe’s anti-terrorism bodies, and notably the Terrorist Working Group (TWG). We also contribute to the operations of the secretary-general of the EU Council on terrorism-related issues.

As for external relations, there is also cooperation, notably within the framework of the Barcelona process. In that framework, we adopted an anti-terrorism code of conduct in 2005. There is also cooperation with the Gulf States and the countries of the African Union.

Additionally, there’s cooperation at the UN level. You know there is an important international agreement to suppress the financing of terrorism. And in a whole series of bodies such as the G8, for example, and what we call the FATF, the Financial Action Task Force in charge of fighting money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

That’s the international and multilateral framework. There’s also bilateral cooperation, in the form of bilateral exchanges among intelligence services. There’s also technical assistance, which France provides through the SCTIP—a body run by the Interior Ministry to promote international police cooperation. The SCTIP carries out more than 200 projects annually on the international level.

Not all of that translates necessarily into official bilateral agreements, but there’s very a tight-knit, close cooperation.

Q - The US has taken part in forays in the Sahara. Whether multilateral or bilateral, does France take part in military actions in this region?

We have police and military cooperation with some of the countries concerned. I am not aware of direct French military involvement in operations like those you just mentioned. But of course there are contacts, exchanges both with the countries of the region and other partners on all these issues.

Q - On the policing level, the Americans say they are working closely with Algeria to pursue those who committed the attacks in Algiers. Is France also taking part?

I don’t know about those particular attacks. But generally speaking, we have very good cooperation with the two countries and I think it will continue. There is no reason for it not to.

(…)

AFGHANISTAN

Q - With respect to the French hostages in Afghanistan, the president just called for Mr. Karzai’s support .It seems strange, because that support should be automatic. Is France asking for a little flexibility on the part of the Afghan authorities?

You are alluding to a statement the president just made. Generally speaking, I have no new information on this subject. As we’ve said since the beginning, we’re in contact with the Afghan authorities at every level. I don’t think the president’s remarks require any special interpretation. I don’t think we’re calling on the Afghan authorities to show flexibility. I think we’re calling on them to help us gain our compatriots’ release.

Q - In other words, that hasn’t happened yet?

We took the matter to the Afghan authorities immediately and have been working with them since the beginning.

Q - Is the French archeological mission in Afghanistan operating normally after all these events?

We’ll find out for you.

(…)/.

Embassy of France, April 13, 2007