Raffarin calls inner-cabinet hostage summit

8th September 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Sept 8 (AFP) - French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin met with his top ministers on Wednesday for talks on the situation of two French journalists held hostage in Iraq for nearly three weeks, Raffarin's aides said.

PARIS, Sept 8 (AFP) - French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin met with his top ministers on Wednesday for talks on the situation of two French journalists held hostage in Iraq for nearly three weeks, Raffarin's aides said.  

The talks, which began at midday after a morning cabinet meeting, were aimed at providing the ministers with an update on the situation, the aides said.  

Foreign Minister Michel Barnier, Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin, Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres and Education Minister Francois Fillon were due to attend the meeting.  

"The French authorities are fully mobilized and pursuing their efforts to obtain the release of our two countrymen kidnapped in Iraq," government spokesman Jean-Francois Cope told reporters after the cabinet meeting, declining to offer further details.  

Radio France correspondent Christian Chesnot, Le Figaro reporter Georges Malbrunot and their Syrian driver were kidnapped in Iraq on August 20 by the so-called Islamic Army in Iraq.  

The shadowy group demanded that Paris rescind its ban on the wearing of Islamic headscarves and other "conspicuous" religious insignia in state schools, but the law went into effect last Thursday as planned.  

On Monday, a statement purportedly from the kidnappers was posted on an Islamist website, giving France 48 hours to accept three new conditions for the journalists' release -- agreeing to a recent truce offer by Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, payment of five million dollars in ransom and a pledge not to get involved in Iraq.  

Barnier said Tuesday during a visit to the Albanian capital Tirana that he was convinced it was "still possible" to secure the release of the two journalists.  

The French foreign minister travelled to the Middle East last week in a bid to save the two newsmen but returned to Paris on Saturday with no news of any release date.

© AFP

 

Subject: French News

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