Alain Juppe blasts Libyan leader, stands by Egypt

6th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Europe and France cannot allow "the criminal folly" of Moamer Kadhafi in dealing with Libya's uprising, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said during a visit Sunday to Cairo, during which he also affirmed his country's commitment to Egypt.

Juppe, speaking to the French community in Egypt, said he would raise the issue of Libya with the head of he Cairo-based Arab League, Amr Mussa.

Juppe said that his visit to the Egyptian capital, which is his first official trip outside Europe since he took office on Tuesday, shows "France's commitment in the face of extraordinary upheavals" in the Arab world.

He rejected criticism of a tardy reaction in Paris to the Arab uprisings, saying "these revolutions took us all by surprise."

"It is not correct to say that we took too long to react" because "we quickly declared our availability to support the march to freedom" of these countries, he added.

French diplomacy has come under fire for failing to foresee revolts erupting in the Arab world and for having maintained privileged ties with former presidents Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak who were both toppled in popular uprisings.

"We perhaps allowed ourselves to be blinded when we were told that the regimes in place were the only bastions against terrorism," Juppe said of France's support to the regimes of Mubarak and Ben Ali.

Juppe said Egypt, the most populous country in the region, is "a key nation for the future of the Arab world" and "is giving the example, without being overly optimistic, of what can be a controlled liberation."

But he also cautioned "nothing is a given."

"We are of course confident but the worst of outcomes has not been excluded. As we watch what is going on in Libya today, we see clearly that this transition can be painful."

He denounced the "criminal folly" of Libyan strongman Kadhafi and said France and Europe will not tolerate such behaviour in dealing with the Libyan uprising.

At a restaurant near Cairo's emblematic Tahrir Square, he met several members of Egypt's youth coalition that helped to overturn Mubarak.

"I have not come here to replace you but we support your fight for democracy," he said.

Juppe paid tribute to the "sense of responsibility" of Egyptian youths, but warned them "what awaits you is more complicated than what you have already achieved," -- a reference to the transition under the army's leadership.

Author Khaled al-Khamissi, who attended the meeting, criticised how France, during Mubarak's rule, "had relations primarily with the political system, refusing to have a real exchange with civil society."

"This was a catastrophe for its foreign policy," said Khamissi.

"Today there might be a new page that includes contact with Egypt's civil society," he added.

Juppe is also due to hold talks with Marshal Hussein Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the institution to which Mubarak handed over power on February 11 when he resigned.

Juppe, a former French prime minister, was named foreign minister on February 27 by President Nicolas Sarkozy in place of Michele Alliot-Marie, who was tainted by her ties to the former Tunisian regime.

© 2011 AFP

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