Chirac backs Iraq election after Yawar talks

14th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 13 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac on Thursday lent his support to the electoral process in Iraq, wishing his Iraqi counterpart Ghazi al-Yawar success for the January 30 polls and urging huge voter turnout.

PARIS, Jan 13 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac on Thursday lent his support to the electoral process in Iraq, wishing his Iraqi counterpart Ghazi al-Yawar success for the January 30 polls and urging huge voter turnout.

After talks with Chirac aimed at repairing ties that have been strained for months, Yawar in turn said Baghdad would do everything possible to locate a French journalist who went missing in Iraq more than a week ago.

"With the January 30 elections, we are approaching a major step for the success of the reconstruction process in Iraq," Chirac's spokesman Jerome Bonnafont quoted him as saying.

"France hopes that it meets with success," the French leader added after talks and lunch with Yawar, the first Iraqi president to make an official visit to France.

Less than three weeks ahead of the polls to choose a new national assembly, and as violence continued to rage across Iraq, Yawar insisted that the elections would take place on schedule and be "100 percent free and honest".

"Right now, we are in the middle of a political process that we are determined in Iraq to see succeed," Yawar told reporters, adding that the vote would "include all Iraqis who do not condone violence" as political action.

Iraq is preparing for its first free and fair polls in half a century, but Iraqi leaders have acknowledged that a nationwide election could be problematic, with voting ensured in only 14 of the country's 18 provinces.

Both Chirac and Yawar called for the highest participation possible in the polls, amid threats by the country's Sunni Muslim minority to boycott the election.

Yawar, himself a Sunni, said: "We Iraqis are all mixed. We are all Iraqis above all. There was never any ethnic or religious separation among the Iraqis - those are imported ideas and terminologies."

Chirac said a truly national political dialogue was "a necessity for the restoration of stability and security in Iraq". This week, members of 14 Iraqi political parties launched a five-day fact-finding mission in Paris.

He also reiterated an offer to help create a training school for Iraqi police outside Iraq.

Yawar's visit had been postponed twice amid tensions between Paris and Baghdad stemming from the kidnapping of two French journalists and a series of barbs launched by Iraqi interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi against France for not supporting the US-led war.

But on Thursday, reconciliation seemed to be the word of the day, with Yawar condemning what he called the "kidnapping" of French journalist Florence Aubenas and pledging to do everything possible to find her.

"I expressed our sadness, in the name of the government and the Iraqi people, over the kidnapping of this innocent journalist," Yawar said.

"The Iraqi government is in the process of doing everything in its power to obtain the release of this French journalist and her guide," he added.

Aubenas, a senior correspondent for the French daily Liberation, disappeared eight days ago after leaving her Baghdad hotel with her Iraqi interpreter, Hussein Hanun al-Saadi.

French officials say they are making all necessary contacts to locate the 43-year-old Aubenas, but have refused to use the word "kidnapping" when describing her disappearance.

Chirac expressed to Yawar his "concern" over the fate of Aubenas and "thanked the Iraqi president for the help of the Iraqi authorities in these painful circumstances", his spokesman said.

Yawar was due to meet with Foreign Minister Michel Barnier on Friday and with senior French lawmakers before heading home on Saturday.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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