I Coast leader helped French hostage missionbecause Paris 'knew about it'

7th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

ABIDJAN, Oct 6 (AFP) - Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo said on Wednesday he gave his permission for a plane to be used in a controversial French mission to free two hostages in Iraq because he thought Paris "knew about it."

ABIDJAN, Oct 6 (AFP) - Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo said on Wednesday he gave his permission for a plane to be used in a controversial French mission to free two hostages in Iraq because he thought Paris "knew about it."  

Gbago said he had been contacted by a group that included French lawmaker Didier Julia, who is at the centre of a bitter row in France about his unsuccessful bid to secure the release of journalists Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot.  

"The only question I asked them was: 'does the Elysee (Palace, the French presidential residence) know about it.' They said Yes. So I said: 'Take the plane.' That's it. So really there is no secret," he said.   "We are not hiding anything," he said.    

"I have a long personal history with France, so I have friends...Some of them came to me and said, really you have to do us this favour, it could help France," Gbagbo said.   

Shortly after Julia's aborted mission to Iraq, played out alongside more drawn-out French diplomatic efforts to release the men, Paris said it lost contact with the kidnappers of the Chesnot, 37, Malbrunot, 41.   

French officials sharply criticised Julia at the time, with Chirac questioning his "interference" and Raffarin calling the initiative "a threat for our fellow countrymen".  

Chesnot and Malbrunot were taken hostage along with their Syrian driver, Mohamed Al-Joundi, in Baghdad's south on August 20.  

The two men are believed to be held by an insurgent group calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq, which initially offered to turn them over if France rescinded a new law banning Islamic headscarves in its state schools, a demand rejected by Paris.

© AFP

 

Subject: French News

 

 

 

 

 

 

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