Chirac in Madagascar for Indian Ocean summit

21st July 2005, Comments 0 comments

MAHAJANGA, Madagascar, July 21 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac arrived Thursday in Madagascar on a two-day visit to attend a summit of the five-nation Indian Ocean Committee (IOC).

MAHAJANGA, Madagascar, July 21 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac arrived Thursday in Madagascar on a two-day visit to attend a summit of the five-nation Indian Ocean Committee (IOC).

Chirac will represent Reunion, a French overseas territory, joining host President Marc Ravalomanana of Madagascar, Comoros and Seychelles presidents Azali Assoumani and James Michel, and the newly-elected prime minister of Mauritius, Navin Ramgoolam at the IOC's summit which opens in the capital Antananarivo Friday.

The meeting is expected to focus on sustainable development and promotion of common heritage.

In addition to their private discussions -- expected to include political, economic and trade co-operation within the IOC, the fight against HIV/AIDS, climate change and population growth -- the leaders are to meet separately with EU officials for talks on development, officials said.

It will be IOC's third heads of state summit since the group's founding in 1984, with the first held in Madagascar in 1991 and last in 1999 on Reunion.

On his arrival, Chirac was welcomed at the airport in Mahajanga, on the island's northwestern coast, by Ravalomanana.

The visit is seen as an important step toward strengthening bilateral ties between the two nations, including improving Madagascar's democracy, and opening up the economy, as well as boosting France's relations with IOC member states.

Relations between the two countries have improved since 2002 when France became among the last western nations to recognise the legitimacy of Ravalomanana.

The relationship is "excellent, friendly and of total co-operation," said Jerome Bonnafont, the French presidential spokesman.

Chirac's visit is the third time a French president has toured Madagascar, one of the world's poorest nations and a former French colony, the others being Charles de Gaulle in 1958 and Francois Mitterrand in 1990.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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