Syria denies link to Iraq hostage fiasco

6th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

DAMASCUS, Oct 6 (AFP) - Syria on Wednesday denied any link with a failed unofficial mediation effort seeking the release of two French journalists held hostage in Iraq.

DAMASCUS, Oct 6 (AFP) - Syria on Wednesday denied any link with a failed unofficial mediation effort seeking the release of two French journalists held hostage in Iraq.  

"We are very surprised by the desire to implicate Syria in the case of the hostages based on utterly unfounded information," a foreign ministry official who wished to remain anonymous told AFP.  

The statement came after French daily Le Figaro reported an alleged "Syrian trail" in efforts led by French MP Didier Julia to free the two hostages, missing along with their Syrian driver since August 20.  

The paper suggested that Julia and his friends had been "naive accomplices to Syrian interference before becoming its humiliated victims".  

"Actually, Syria only let MP Didier Julia in after receiving an official request for an entry visa for him from the French embassy" in Damascus, the official continued.  

"When Syria learned through official French declarations that Julia was on a private mission, it refrained from having any contact with him," he added.  

French media have been humming with speculation in the past days over the failed, private mission to free the two men led by Julia, a 70-year-old lawmaker in President Jacques Chirac's ruling party.  

Francois Bayrou, head of the centre-right UDF party, said that the French "government does not exclude" the possibility that the hostages are already in Syria.  

Julia's mission came up empty-handed when a convoy that was meant to carry the reporters, Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, to the Syrian border failed to materialise Friday.  

French officials have since sharply criticised Julia, with Chirac questioning his "interference" and Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin calling the initiative "a threat for our fellow countrymen".  

Chesnot and Malbrunot 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held by an insurgent group calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq, which initially offered to turn them over if France rescinded a new law banning Islamic headscarves in its state schools, a demand rejected by Paris.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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