France nixes Qaeda demand, says policy cannot be dictated

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French policy cannot be dictated, Foreign Minister Michelle Alliot-Marie said Friday after an Al-Qaeda offshoot in Africa holding French hostages called for Paris to pull its troops out of Afghanistan.

"France cannot accept that its policy be dictated by anyone outside," Alliot-Marie said in a statement after Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) head Abdelmalek Droukdel made the demand in an audio recording.

The message said that France would have to negotiate personally with Osama bin Laden to secure the release of five French hostages seized in Niger in September along with a Togolese and a Madagascan and believed held in Mali.

The recording, broadcast by Arab satellite network Al-Jazeera, said that to ensure the hostages' safety, France must "hasten and take your soldiers out of Afghanistan according to a specific timetable that you announce officially."

"France is doing all in its power for the hostages, wherever they are, to be freed safe and sound," Alliot-Marie said.

© 2010 AFP

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