France intensifies search for missing reporter

19th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 19 (AFP) - France has stepped up its efforts to obtain information about the whereabouts of a reporter who went missing in Iraq two weeks ago, but so far has no news, a government spokesman has said.

PARIS, Jan 19 (AFP) - France has stepped up its efforts to obtain information about the whereabouts of a reporter who went missing in Iraq two weeks ago, but so far has no news, a government spokesman has said.

"All efforts are being undertaken to multiply all contacts on the ground in order to pick up the trail of Florence Aubenas. It's true that for now, we have no news," spokesman Jean-Francois Cope told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

Muslim groups in Paris have since issued a joint plea based on the assumption she was the latest victim of hostage-taking by insurgents.

"Nothing supports one theory or another" as to what happened to Florence Aubenas, who disappeared January 5 with her Iraqi interpreter after they left their Baghdad hotel, defence ministry spokesman Jean-Francois Bureau said.

"Information is very fragmentary" and while it was possible Aubenas was kidnapped, there was as yet no firm indication as to her fate, he said.

Representatives of France's large Muslim community, however, called for the veteran 43-year-old reporter for the Liberation newspaper and her Iraqi assistant, Hussein Hanun al-Saadi, to be "freed".

"We are launching a strong and symbolic appeal to all Muslims in the world for the rapid and unconditional liberation of our friend and her colleague, God willing," the head of France's Council of the Muslim Religion and the rector of the mosque, Dalil Boubakeur, said.

Also present was Georges Malbrunot, a journalist with Le Figaro newspaper who was freed in Iraq last month after being held for four months by insurgents along with a Radio France Internationale reporter, Christian Chesnot, as well as Aubenas's father and the executive editor of Liberation.

Malbrunot said the Muslim appeal was "very precious" and added that all of France should get behind a campaign to see Aubenas returned safe and sound. "She is guilty of no fault, she is simply a victim of the chaos in Iraq," he said.

President Jacques Chirac has since warned French journalists to stay out of Iraq, saying their safety cannot be ensured.

© AFP (combined reports)

Subject: French News

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