Wednesday, December 29, 2004

The French Foreign Ministry and the Iraq Hostage Situation: Coaching the Journalists, Sabotaging Private Initiatives, and Playing the Blame Game

Or: And so what is new at the Quai d'Orsay (and in French politics in general)?…

Pas grand chose

A member of the Didier Julia team has warned Foreign Minister Michel Barnier "not to go too far" in his vendetta against the UMP representative who, single-handedly, attempted to bring about the liberation of Georges Malbrunot and Christian Chesnot in September, writes Philippe Le Cœur.

Seeing Barnier's vendetta as an attempt to cast all the blame on Julia, adds the AFP, history professor Philippe Evano has threatened the foreign ministry with "providing light" on what really happened.

Already he has given a taste of what he might reveal by saying, in general terms, that if anybody is responsible for the Julia mission floundering, says Evano, it is the French foreign ministry's Barnier, who sabotaged it "at least twice".

Didier Julia himself has denounced the "manipulation of Barnier and his friends, who coached the hostages in the plane bringing them back to France", and which he "caught straight in the smacker." He adds that "the term of mythomaniac used by Malbrunot at my expense when he got off the plane is the deed of an énarque [a professional politician], not of a journalist. It is inadmissable."

Moreover, Hervé Gattegno et Stephen Smith point out that the French authorities never disavowed the Didier Julia initiative until it emerged that it had been a failure; in addition, they suggest that the French secret service is now trying to take revenge on a team that tried to circumvent it.

As for the UMP representative from Deux-Sèvres, Dominique Paillé has said that Barnier's call for sanctions against Julia was uncalled for, which may be far from unrelated to Evano's threat to reveal all.

Meanwhile, a Le Monde reader, Gérald Arnaud, points out that, contrary to the four-month period of incessant noise surrounding the reporters kidnapped in Iraq in August, nobody (no journalist and no politician) has made a big deal about the French journalist kidnapped in Abidjan seven months ago (on May 16). No news has been heard of Guy-André Kieffer since, and no public clamor has arisen over the man who "was investigating embezzlement in the cocoa importation network, a sector where considerable French private interests have often mixed with those of the leaders of Ivory Coast."

Hmmm… Makes one wonder where the difference lies regarding Malbrunot and Chesnot… Now what was it again that that duo was investigating?…

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