French hostage’s family outraged by political spat

4th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 4 (AFP) - The family of a French journalist taken hostage in Iraq expressed outrage Friday at a political spat sparked by a video released by the kidnappers calling for the intervention of a maverick French MP.

PARIS, March 4 (AFP) - The family of a French journalist taken hostage in Iraq expressed outrage Friday at a political spat sparked by a video released by the kidnappers calling for the intervention of a maverick French MP.

The mother of Liberation newspaper correspondent Florence Aubenas, Jacqueline, said she was frustrated by the row raging while her daughter remained in the hands of an unknown group who grabbed her and her Iraqi interpreter in Baghdad on January 5.

The abductors on Tuesday released a video in which Florence Aubenas, looking gaunt and desperate, made an "urgent" plea for help from Didier Julia, a French MP who has past ties to former members of Saddam Hussein's regime who are now believed to be active in the Iraqi insurgency.

Julia, a 71-year-old Arabic speaker who also has links to Syria, has offered to help - but only if the government lifts a criminal investigation on two of his assistants who aided him in a failed unofficial bid last year to free two other French journalists taken in Iraq.

The government, which eventually secured the release itself of the two reporters in December, has dismissed the appeal to Julia, towards whom officials have not disguised their animosity.

Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin on Thursday called on Aubenas' abductors to communicate "only with official French services" and said it would be "unacceptable" for Julia to embark on another freelance mission.

Jacqueline Aubenas told radio station France Info: "I really couldn't care less whether Mr Julia is involved or not. I want Florence to be freed and not be used as a pawn in the battles between power cliques, in personal and secret struggles, in the jostling between services.

"Really, I am outraged."

She stressed that her 43-year-old daughter "was forced" to appeal to Julia by name.

For his part, Julia attempted to portray the government as playing with the journalist's life by not involving him as a mediator.

"Either Jean-Pierre Raffarin is in the process of saving Florence Aubenas with the (intelligence) services, in which case he has absolutely no need of me and I would be the first to welcome that," he told AFP.

"Or he is putting Florence Aubenas in an extremely difficult situation."

Julia observed that he had already briefed France's foreign intelligence service, the DGSE, on what he knew in an hour-long meeting Thursday. He asserted that he "would do nothing without approval from French authorities."

He repeated, however, that he needed the help of his two assistants, a former pro-Saddam lobbyist named Philippe Brett, and another man, Philippe Evanno, who are both barred from speaking to him under the terms of the probe against them.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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