French foreign minister Kouchner spars with US journalist, anti-war protestors

21st September 2007, Comments 0 comments

21 September 2007, WASHINGTON (AFP) - French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on Thursday took pains to correct a US television reporter who suggested France had been isolated following the US-led invasion of Iraq.

21 September 2007

WASHINGTON (AFP) - French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on Thursday took pains to correct a US television reporter who suggested France had been isolated following the US-led invasion of Iraq.

And Kouchner, who caused a diplomatic storm Sunday when he said of Iran, "we have to prepare for the worst, and the worst is war," faced a verbal tirade from anti-war protesters who interrupted a speech he was giving separately in Washington.

"You were isolated in the stage of the world," Kouchner shot back during the CNN interview. "We were not, the French, not at all."

France's opposition to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 brought a chill to relations between the longtime allies.

"But we have to forget about the way you did in Iraq and we have to, together, all together, try to help the Iraqis to solve the situation. This is the coming back of friendship," Kouchner said.

"But I'm not obliged to be in agreement with all the American positions. Certainly not. But I'm obliged to be sincere with my American friends."

Kouchner, the founder of Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres), visited Baghdad at the end of August, becoming the first French government official to visit Iraq since the ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Elsewhere Thursday, Kouchner was giving a talk at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington when he was interrupted by two female protesters from the Code Pink anti-war movement.

"No war in Iran," the women shouted, holding up a banner that read "Bush + Kouchner = Warmongers sans frontieres." They were quickly escorted from the room by security.

Kouchner, who spoke directly with other members of the group who were not sent out, said he found them "admirable" and "nice," adding however that "they were mistaken. They thought I was pro-war."

Kouchner has insisted his comments on preparing for the worst with Iran  were taken out of context, and has offered to visit Iran for talks on the nuclear standoff.

The United States and its allies fear Iran's uranium enrichment program is a cover for a bid to build atomic weapons. Tehran says its nuclear program is for peaceful civilian energy purposes.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has distanced himself from Kouchner's Iran comments, saying that the Iranian nuclear question "is an extremely difficult affair, but France does not want a war."

AFP

Subject: French news

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