France says open to talks with democratic Islamists

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French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Saturday that talks should be held with Islamist movements in the Arab world if they embraced democracy and renounced violence.

A diplomatic source said the statement marked a radical shift in France's foreign policy amid popular uprisings in Arab countries.

"We should talk and exchange ideas with all those who respect the rules of the democratic game and of course the fundamental principle of renouncing violence," Juppe said during the closing speech of a Paris symposium on revolts in the Arab world.

"I hope that this dialogue will open unashamedly with Islamic movements as soon as the principles I just mentioned -- the rules of the democratic game -- are respected," he said.

The diplomatic source said Juppe's remarks represented a significant change in French foreign policy. "France is open to dialogue with all players of the democratic game," he said.

A series of popular uprisings in Arab nations from Tunisia to Libya has raised concerns about Islamist movements such as Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood or Tunisia's newly legalised Ennahda (Awakening) movement gaining in influence.

© 2011 AFP

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