Sarkozy to assert French influence in address to ambassadors

27th August 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Aug 27, 2007 (AFP) - President Nicolas Sarkozy is to outline a more assertive role for France on the world stage when he delivers on Monday his first major address on foreign policy since taking office.

PARIS, Aug 27, 2007 (AFP) - President Nicolas Sarkozy is to outline a more assertive role for France on the world stage when he delivers on Monday his first major address on foreign policy since taking office.

The address comes on the heels of comments from French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner calling for Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to be replaced. He also said the US government had failed to understand Iraq's ancient rivalries.

Sarkozy, who completed his first 100 days in office last week, is to address a gathering of ambassadors in Paris who will also hear a keynote speech by Kouchner.

Kouchner took French foreign policy in a new direction last week when he paid a visit to Baghdad, offering to help stabilise the country four years after France led opposition to the US invasion of Iraq.

The foreign minister said in an interview with US magazine Newsweek published Sunday: "I just had (US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice) on the phone 10 or 15 minutes ago, and I told her, 'Listen, he's got to be replaced.'"

"Many people believe the prime minister ought to be changed. I don't know if that will go through, though, because it seems President (George W.) Bush is attached to Mr Maliki. But the government is not functioning," he said.

Kouchner also offered France's help in mediating between Iraq's warring communities, in an op-ed article published in Monday's International Herald Tribune.

Sarkozy on Friday told a cabinet meeting that France must play a significant role in world affairs.

"France must be present in Iraq, France must be present in countries throughout the Arab world. She must have a foreign policy that shows international influence," he said.

Since taking office in May, Sarkozy has been active on the diplomatic front, shifting from the stance of his predecessor Jacques Chirac, who had been the most vocal opponent of US President George W. Bush's Iraq policy.

The 52-year-old French leader is widely seen as pro-American, spending a two-week vacation at a lakeside resort in the state of New Hampshire this month, during which he held what the White House described as a "heart-to-heart talk" with Bush over lunch at the president's family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine.

"We are not making anti-Americanism the basis of our policy. That is perhaps a bit of a change," Kouchner commented in an interview Sunday with the popular Le Parisien newspaper.

Since his appointment in May, Kouchner, also a distinguished humanitarian, has stepped up French diplomacy on Darfur, Sudan's violence-torn province where fighting has left 200,000 dead since 2003, according to UN figures.

He has also been active on Lebanon, trying to reconcile rival factions, and is expected to travel soon to Rwanda to restore diplomatic ties strained over the 1994 genocide.

For his part, Sarkozy has led a successful drive to get Europe back on track after French and Dutch voters rejected a new constitution to strengthen the architecture of the European Union.

France is to take the helm of the 27-nation EU in July 2008, with Sarkozy promising to stir debate on such sensitive issues as Europe's borders, Turkey's membership inside the bloc and curbing immigration.

Perhaps Sarkozy's biggest diplomatic coup thus far has been the release of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor from Libya who had spent seven years in jail on charges of infecting children with AIDS.

In the coming months, Sarkozy hopes to make a high-profile visit to Darfur with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article