De Villepin meets with Powell in New York
WASHINGTON, Feb 5 (AFP) - US Secretary of State Colin Powell and French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin will meet Friday in New York to discuss Iraq and the Ivory Coast, two sensitive issues between the western allies that have often clashed since the Iraq war debate.
Although the meeting has been described as routine, it was seen as significant for two countries that have clashed over major diplomatic issues in the past year.
The two top diplomats are to have a work session before lunch at a New York hotel as the United Nations discusses Liberia’s reconstruction.
Powell and de Villepin are expected to talk mainly about Iraq, and France’s desire to send UN peacekeepers to Ivory Coast, divided between the rebel-held north and west and the government-held south.
They are also expected to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and the war on terrorism.
The two last met briefly in Geneva on September 13 at a UN meeting on Iraq, but they regularly speak to each other by telephone, according to French and US sources.
“This is part of our regular work with one of our allies with whom we have occasional and acute differences,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on Wednesday, referring to the two countries’ disagreement over the war in Iraq.
Powell last month insisted he and de Villepin have a very good relationship and the two have “the most candid and direct conversations about what we do that annoys the other.”
“The French are a proud people that have strong views about things, and from time to time, yes, they have annoyed me,” Powell said in a Philadelphia radio interview on January 21. “And I’m sure from time to time I have annoyed them.”
Powell might bring up on Friday a proposal to increase NATO’s role in Iraq, where the military alliance is providing logistical support to a multinational division headed by Poland.
French President Jacques Chirac on Wednesday did not exclude a new role for NATO in Iraq, but only after the United States transfers power over to an Iraqi regime on June 30 and if the new government accepts NATO’s involvement.Paris is preoccupied with the situation in Ivory Coast, an issue de Villepin will likely bring up with Powell.
De Villepin said on Thursday that the United States had asked for an “additional delay” for a vote on a UN resolution to send 6,000 UN peacekeepers to the West African country.
France has 4,000 troops in Ivory Coast alongside forces from other African nations monitoring a ceasefire between government forces and rebels who launched an uprising in September 2002.
French officials pushed the UN vote back to February 27 to give US officials time to gather support for the plan, which is backed by African nations.
French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie brought up the issue during her visits in Washington and at the UN in mid-January.
Subject: France news