Chirac hails 'ambitious' reform in Saudi Arabia

14th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 14 (AFP) - President Jacques Chirac late Wednesday praised the "ambitious programme of transformations" in Saudi Arabia and promised France would be "at the side of the Saudis" in the fight against terrorism.

PARIS, April 14 (AFP) - President Jacques Chirac late Wednesday praised the "ambitious programme of transformations" in Saudi Arabia and promised France would be "at the side of the Saudis" in the fight against terrorism.

Speaking at a dinner for Saudi Arabia's crown prince and de facto ruler Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, who arrived earlier for a two-day visit, Chirac declared: "Under your impetus, the kingdom has undertaken an ambitious programme of transformations to which I'd like to pay homage."

The holding in February of direct-suffrage municipal elections was among the initiatives that deserved praise, the French leader said.

Chirac also assured Saudi Arabia, target of the Al-Qaeda terror network, that France "will continue to be at the side of the Saudis.

"Together, in the framework of the United Nations and the treaties binding us, we are determined to do everything to defeat this scourge that nothing, ever, can justify," the French president added.

Prince Abdullah's visit was "a unique chance to mark forcefully the importance we want to give to the development" of relations between the two countries, Chirac said.

Chirac himself went to Orly airport south of Paris to greet the Saudi crown prince at the start of his visit expected to focus on Iran, Lebanon, Iraq and the fight against terrorism.

Abdullah met with Chirac for one-on-one talks before the state dinner. On Thursday, the two will hold a working lunch, and Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin will host a dinner for the crown prince.

The meetings will cover "international and regional issues, especially the situation in Lebanon, the Middle East and Iraq, as well as the Iranian dossier and terrorism," said French foreign ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei.

The two days of talks will also address the "political, civilian, military and economic" aspects of Franco-Saudi bilateral relations, Mattei said.

After his visit to France, Abdullah will head to the United States for talks with US President George W. Bush at his Texas ranch, and then on to Canada.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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