Wednesday, August 03, 2005

France's Yes-No policies, and a follow-up on the Aubenas and Chesnot/Malbrunot kidnappings

First the follow-up: Last month I was posting on the Aubenas kidnapping. Last year I posted on the Chesnot/Malbrunot kidnapping. Yesterday Roger Auque, a reporter who was himself held hostage in Lebanon in 1987, (empahsis mine)
told the August-September issue of Afrique Magazine that - despite official denials - the French government had paid $6m to free Liberation newspaper correspondent Florence Aubenas and her Iraqi interpreter in June.

Two other French journalists who had been released last December, Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, were handed over in exchange for $2m
, Auque said, relying on what he described as "a reliable source" for his information.

Officers in DGSE foreign intelligence service "have identified the abductors and the place they had been held", said the journalist, who has written a book about his own captivity at the hands of Hezbollah.

"In the basement of the DGSE in Paris the cellphone numbers of the abductors and their photos are stuck on a wall next to a map of Iraq," he said.
Transatlantic Intelligencer has "cause to ponder the possibility of a certain complicity between the hostage takers and at least some of their supposed victims":
Several reports in the European press have speculated that the abduction of Malbrunot and Chesnot and that of Aubenas are somehow connected. In a short article in today’s Le Figaro, Malbrunot himself notes that Aubenas’s fellow hostage Hussein Hanoun “played a role at the beginning of our abduction: it was he who accompanied to the French Embassy in Baghdad an intermediary bearing a piece of paper on which was to be found our names, our signatures, and the remark ‘okay’. This was 23 August, three days after our capture.” “But Hussein’s role was minor,” Malbrunot adds reassuringly. He also notes a further continuity between the two affairs: “According to several sources, the abductors of Florence Aubenas are tied to the deposed Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein, as were some of ours.” This is a particularly interesting observation on the part of Malbrunot, since officially he and Chesnot were abducted by a radical Islamist group calling itself the Islamic Army of Iraq. So much for the assumption that Islamists and Baathists cannot work together....
In current news, Seven French 'died for al-Qaeda'
"At least seven people from France have died... fighting for al-Qaeda's cause, some in suicide attacks," Nicolas Sarkozy told Le Parisien.

Another 10 are in Iraq, Pakistan, Syria and Afghanistan, he said.

Nicolas Sarkozy also said the surveillance of flights to those countries would be reinforced.
France has expelled two radical Islamist leaders in the wake of the London bombings and plans to round up and send home up to two dozen more by the end of the month, the interior ministry said yesterday.
Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy says that France Urges U.N. Intervention With Iran. I don't think the mullahs are losing any sleep on that.

France urges US to open market to African farm products. I'm all for that. What I don't appreciate is comments like this,
"How can you understand, for example, that the Americans don't accept the idea that the African countries, which also have agriculture, can export their products to the United States?" Douste-Blazy told the French private radio Europe
considering how France is THE #1 farm-subsidy beneficiary in the EU, as Tony Blair correctly pointed out, 40% of the EU budget was currently spent on agriculture, and the EU's tariff on imported bananas has been declared illegal by the World Trade Organization.

The recurring thread of this post is France's yes-no policy approach: Yes, pay ramsoms and finance terrorists - No, throw terrorists out of the country. Yes, talk tough to the Iranians - No, don't do much else than passing the buck to the UN. Yes, open markets - No, don't open French markets, open American markets instead.

Confused yet?

Maybe it's all part of The Diplomacy of Impotence, or maybe it's just a French thing.

Update France's in worse shape than I thought -- Kurgman thinks "there's a lot to be said for the French choice".

Also posted at Bad Hair Blog
(technorati )