Saudi, France to seek common stance on conflict

19th July 2006, Comments 0 comments

RIYADH, July 19, 2006 (AFP) - Saudi Arabia's crown prince was due in Paris Wednesday for talks with French President Jacques Chirac aimed at finding a joint stance on the conflict in Lebanon, press reports said.

RIYADH, July 19, 2006 (AFP) - Saudi Arabia's crown prince was due in Paris Wednesday for talks with French President Jacques Chirac aimed at finding a joint stance on the conflict in Lebanon, press reports said.

The visit "comes at a time when the region is going through renewed tension, necessitating consultation between our two countries, whose positions are very close," Chirac wrote in a "message to the Saudi people" published in the daily Al-Riyadh.

The daily Okaz said that Riyadh and Paris would seek to formulate a "joint position to end the bloodshed, shield Lebanon from destruction and rebuild the Lebanese economy."

Saudi Arabia and France played a key role in assisting the reconstruction of Lebanon in the wake of its 1975-1990 civil war, a period which also witnessed a full-scale Israeli invasion in 1982.

Lebanon has already suffered losses of more than half a billion dollars and seen its crucial tourist season wrecked since Israel launched a devastating assault a week ago which has targeted the country's infrastructure.

Saudi Arabia has urged international action to end hostilities between Israel and Shiite Hezbollah militants, while France has suggested ideas that could form the basis of a UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire.

France has also indicated it wants to help oil-rich Saudi Arabia "preserve its external security, whether in terms of training personnel, cooperation between the armed forces or the modernization of its equipment," Chirac said.

The visit of Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, who is also defense minister, might lead to the signing of defense contracts, according to French sources.

The French presidential palace said Tuesday that Chirac would meet with Sultan on Thursday as planned but that an additional meeting had been set for Wednesday.

Chirac visited Saudi Arabia in March without clinching a defense deal, but the two countries are in talks over the supply to Riyadh of helicopters, Rafale fighters, refueling planes, tanks, frigates and submarines, among others.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French News

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