Chirac, Schroeder tell of horror at Iraq beheading

13th May 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 13 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Thursday voiced their horror over the beheading of a US national in Iraq and criticised the torture of Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers.

PARIS, May 13 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Thursday voiced their horror over the beheading of a US national in Iraq and criticised the torture of Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers.

Following a joint cabinet meeting dominated by the situation in Iraq and the thorny issue of EU industrial policy, Chirac and Schroeder - who opposed the Iraq war - joined the chorus of international outrage over the violent acts.

The French president expressed his "horror and indignation" over the gruesome slaying of US businessman Nick Berg "in conditions that were unimaginable in their barbarity".

"Nothing can ever excuse such acts. This is one of the most appalling assassinations that we have ever seen," the German chancellor said for his part, expressing his solidarity with the United States "in this trying time".

For the first time, Chirac directly criticised the torture and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in US custody, especially at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad.

"We thought that those days were over, and that international obligations were now recognised and applied by everyone," he said, however noting that "our American friends condemned these acts and have launched proceedings to punish those responsible."

Schroeder also denounced the prisoner abuse in Iraq, but said the scandal showed the "strength of American democracy", as authorities had "immediately sought to shed light on the issue."

The German chancellor travelled to Paris on Thursday with most of his cabinet for the third in a series of expanded meetings begun last January to mark 40 years of Franco-German reconciliation.

Chirac and Schroeder highlighted their close cooperation on a number of issues including Iraq, with Chirac saying they were working on joint proposals within the UN Security Council to support the transfer of power on June 30 to an interim Iraqi government.

On the proposed European Union constitution, both leaders expressed confidence that the text - seen as crucial to avoid decision-making gridlock in the newly expanded 25-member bloc - would eventually be ratified.

"I can't imagine that the constitution, this important work of European unification, might not be approved" by parliamentary vote or referendum in EU member states, Schroeder said.

Chirac said French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin would travel to Berlin at month's end to meet with Schroeder on ways to encourage the emergence of "industrial champions" in Europe.

©AFP

Subject: French news

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