Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, February 26, 2007)

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


IRAN

Let me read you the statement made by Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy yesterday following the release of Stéphane Lherbier:

“I’ve just been informed that Stéphane Lherbier was released today after being pardoned by Ayatollah Khamenei. He is currently at our embassy in Teheran.

I am delighted that Mr. Lherbier will be able to rejoin his family and loved ones.

We continue to stand alongside the German authorities in hoping that Donald Klein, who received the same penalty as our compatriot, will be receive the same pardon in the coming days.”

Q - The political directors of the Six met in London to try and find a common position on the Iranian nuclear issue. What were the results of that meeting? Was there an agreement on the need to extend the current sanctions?

As far as I know, that London meeting is still going on.

The meeting itself follows up on SCR 1737; its purpose is to prepare the stages to come, following the IAEA’s report.

It is premature to draw any conclusions.

Q - What’s your reaction to the British decision to strengthen or even double its naval contingent in the Gulf? Is France thinking about beefing up its naval deployment in the region, given tensions with Iraq?

I have no comment on the British decision.

As for France, the Defense Ministry announced the departure, on February 7, of the Charles de Gaulle and a naval aviation unit for four months. This unit is to take part in a number of exercises and should contribute air support to the troops stationed in Afghanistan.

Q - Does France share Russia’s concerns on possible American strikes against Iran after the latest threats by Dick Cheney?

The foreign minister has noted a number of times that there’s no military option, only a political solution.

That’s the meaning of the UN Security Council’s effort, with the active participation of the U.S.

EU

Let me read you the Prime Minister’s communiqué of February 23 announcing the launch in France of the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All:

“On February 27, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, who has placed equal opportunity at the heart of his work at the head of the government, will launch in France the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All in the presence of Mr. Azouz Begag, the minister charged with the promotion of equal opportunity, and Catherine Colonna, the minister for European affairs, associations, businesses and figures working in this area.

Together with its member countries, the European commission chose to make 2007 the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All in order to support the fight against all forms of discrimination, whether they relate to ethnicity, belief, gender, age, handicap or sexual orientation.

A public awareness campaign will have four main topics: equal rights and the right to non-discrimination; the representation of under-represented minorities; the recognition of diversity; and the importance of respect and tolerance.

The French government charged the High Authority for the Fight Against Discrimination and for Equality (HALDE) to implement it in France. For this, it appealed to associations to submit projects. 45 were pre-selected by a jury comprising ministers’ representatives, members of the High Committee for Integration and the HALDE, as well as other qualified figures.

These projects will be presented to the Prime Minister on February 27 during the launch of the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All at the Hôtel Matignon.”

MIDEAST

Q - What’s your reaction to the Israeli raids that are continuing in Nablus and the surrounding area? Do you think this type of action is facilitating the progress of a peace process that’s still as delicate and fragile as it is?

We are calling for restraint.

Following the Mecca agreement and the tripartite meeting last week, we hope that the dialogue will continue and make it possible to move toward a political solution. That’s the meaning of the support the president and foreign minister expressed to President Abbas during his visit to Paris.

IRAQ

Q - Moqtada al-Sadr is very critical of the Iraqi security plan. What’s your assessment of this plan’s success, and do you support the measures taken by Prime Minister al-Maliki?

I don’t want to comment on security-related aspects; they fall within the province of the Iraqi authorities and the coalition forces, to which France doesn’t belong.

Beyond that, we are convinced that the way to restoring stability in Iraq is through an inclusive political dialogue, as we’ve said on numerous occasions./.

Embassy of France, February 26, 2007