French foreign minister in surprise Afghan visit

12th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner was en route for Afghanistan on Friday on a surprise visit, his spokesman said.

The previously unannounced trip could be Kouchner's swansong as France's top diplomat. The 71-year-old former humanitarian leader is widely expected to lose his job next week when President Nicolas Sarkozy reshuffles his cabinet.

"He'll meet Afghan officials. He'll be received by President Hamid Karzai to talk about Franco-Afghan ties and the situation in Afghanistan ahead of the NATO summit in Lisbon," ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said.

NATO leaders are to meet on Friday and Saturday next week, and Karzai is to be one of their guests.

France has around 3,750 soldiers in Afghanistan fighting Islamist insurgents and training Afghan forces as part of the US-led NATO coalition, and more than 50 French soldiers have died during the mission.

Meanwhile, two French television journalists have been held hostage in Afghanistan by suspected insurgents for more than 10 months.

Valero said that Kouchner would raise the issue of the hostages with Afghan officials and would meet French diplomats and soldiers posted to Afghanistan to thank and support them in their difficult missions.

© 2010 AFP

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