Chirac hails hostages' return, vows to fight terrorism

22nd December 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Dec 22 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac on Wednesday hailed the release of two French journalists held hostage in Iraq since August, and vowed his country would continue to fight "terrorism".

PARIS, Dec 22 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac on Wednesday hailed the release of two French journalists held hostage in Iraq since August, and vowed his country would continue to fight "terrorism".

The reporters, Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, "are now on their way to Paris," he said in a televised address in which he expressed his "joy" over the development.

"They have gone through a very tough ordeal," he added. "In the name of all, I express to them our sympathy and highest regards."

A French military source said the two men had been flown out of Baghdad on a French air force Hercules transport aircraft headed to Cyprus.

Chirac's office said they would be picked up there a French air force jet which took off earlier Wednesday from Paris carrying French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier and a few relatives.

They were expected back in Paris at 6:00 pm (1700 GMT), the Elysee palace said, adding that Chirac would greet them personally as they stepped off the plane at a military airbase just outside the capital.

"Their release we owe to the mobilisation and solidarity of all the French, to whom I want to pay homage," he said, referring to a four month campaign that kept the reporters' plight in the public eye and the support lent by France's five-million strong Muslim community.

He also credited their freedom to "the responsible and tenacious action of the government and all the services which mobilised with determination and efficiency."

Chirac added: "United around its values and strong in its unity, France will continue to oppose all forms of terrorism without wavering.

"Everywhere, it will continue to defend human rights, support the freedom of people and work tirelessly for peace, democracy and solidarity."

His speech came an hour after Barnier's plane had left Paris to collect the journalists. Chesnot of Radio France Internationale and Malbrunot of Le Figaro newspaper were kidnapped on August 20.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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