French defence minister in Christmas visit to Afghanistan
French Defence Minister Alain Juppe arrived in Kabul Saturday for a Christmas visit to troops deployed in Afghanistan, according to an AFP journalist.
Juppe, on his first journey to the country since he assumed his post in November, is due to visit several French and other units deployed in the capital and elsewhere during his 48-hour trip.
Soon after arriving he stopped at the French military field hospital at Kabul airport, where he met medical personnel and patients, including Afghan civilians.
The hospital "is a symbol of what we are doing here", he said. "Of course there are military actions but there are also actions for development to benefit the Afghans."
Juppe is is scheduled to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Sunday. He is expected to raise the plight of French hostages Herve Ghesquiere and Stephane Taponier, who were kidnapped along with their Afghan colleagues last December.
France has around 3,850 troops deployed in Afghanistan, particularly in Kapisa province, near Kabul, and Surobi district, 60 kilometres (40 miles) northeast of the capital.
France has suffered 52 military deaths in Afghanistan since the US-led invasion of the country in 2001.
© 2010 AFP