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Tag Archives: Nicolas Sarkozy

Photostream : Chinese President Hu Jintao visits France

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) meets his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao at the Villa Massena in Nice November 5, 2010. Hu is on a three-day visit in France. (Getty Images / REUTERS / Jacques Witt/Pool )

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, right, welcomes Chinese President Hu Jintao, left, upon his arrival at the Massena Palace in Nice, southern France, Friday Nov. 5, 2010. The Chinese President is on his second day state visit to France.(Getty Images /AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) and China's President Hu Jintao speak together as they arrive at the Villa Massena for talks in Nice November 5, 2010. China's President Hu Jintao is on a three-day visit in France. (Getty Images / REUTERS/Christian Alminana )

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, center, and Chinese President Hu Jintao, left, meet people as they arrive at the Villa Massena in Nice, southern France, Friday Nov. 5, 2010. The Chinese President is on a state visit to France. (Getty Images / AP Photo/Lionel Bonaventure, Pool)

Former French President Jacques Chirac (L) speaks with China's President Hu Jintao (R) during a meeting at the George V Hotel in Paris November 5, 2010. (Getty Images / REUTERS/Patrick Kovarik/Pool )

Chinese President Hu Jintao, left, is welcomed by French Prime Minister Francois Fillon at Matignion, in Paris, Friday, Nov.5, 2010. France announced 16 billion Euros(22,8 billion Dollars)in deals to sell uranium, technology and more than 100 Airbus planes to China.(Getty Images / AP Photo/Yoan Valat, Pool)

China's President Hu Jintao (C) stands next to French Junior Minister for Veterans' affairs Hubert Falco (L) and a military official as he pays homage after laying a wreath at the unknown soldier's tomb at the Arc of Triomphe in Paris November 5, 2010. (Getty Images/ REUTERS/Thibault Camus/Pool )

Chinese President Hu Jintao (L) waves as he stands with his wife Liu Yongqing upon their arrival at Orly airport, south of Paris on November 4, 2010. Hu is on a three-day state visit during which France hopes to clinch billions of dollars in deals for nuclear, aviation and energy technology. (Photo by CHARLES PLATIAU/AFP/Getty Images)

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Photostream : British Prime Minister David Cameron meets French President Nicolas Sarkozy

French President Nicolas Sarkozy meets with British Prime Minister David Cameron at Lancaster House on November 2, 2010 in London, England. Mr Cameron and Mr Sarkozy are attending a Franco-British Summit and are likely to agree to a new military expeditionary joint force. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

French President Nicolas Sarkozy (R) is welcomed by British Prime Minister David Cameron to Lancaster House in central London, for an Anglo-French summit on November 2, 2010. Britain and France usher in an unprecedented era of cooperation at a summit in London Tuesday with a deal to create a joint military force and share aircraft carriers and nuclear testing facilities. Cameron and Sarkozy will sign two treaties which they say will allow both nations to remain global players while cutting defence budgets following the financial crisis. (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

French President Nicolas Sarkozy (R) meets with British Prime Minister David Cameron and enters Lancaster House on November 2, 2010 in London, England. Mr Cameron and Mr Sarkozy are attending a Franco-British Summit and are likely to agree to a new military expeditionary joint force. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

French President Nicolas Sarkozy (L), and British Prime Minister David Cameron, pose for photographers ahead of an Anglo-French summit at Lancaster House on November 2, 2010 in London. Britain and France will sign defence treaties at a summit in London setting out cooperation on issues including military planes and aircraft carriers, Prime Minister David Cameron said. (Photo by Leon Neal/WPA Pool/Getty Images)

French President Nicolas Sarkozy (4th L), and British Prime Minister David Cameron (4th R), pose for photographers ahead of an Anglo-French summit at Lancaster House in central London on November 2, 2010. Britain and France will sign defence treaties at a summit in London Tuesday setting out cooperation on issues including military planes and aircraft carriers, Prime Minister David Cameron said. (Photo by LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)

Medvedev arrives in Deauville for meeting with Merkel, Sarkozy

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy (C), German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) and Russia's President Dmitri Medvedev wave as they leave the hotel before a tripartite summit between France, Germany and Russia in Deauville October 18, 2010. (Getty Images / REUTERS/Eric Feferberg/Pool )

DEAUVILLE, October 18 (KATAKAMI / Itar-Tass) — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev arrived in Deauville on Monday, October 18, for a summit meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The leaders will begin their discussion at a working dinner and then continue it on Tuesday morning. They will speak about its results at a press conference.

“The trilateral meeting is not some kind on an exclusive club for working out decisions separately from other states and international organisations, but a convenient format for comparing our common vision in a confidential and frank atmosphere with our closest partners in Europe with which our cooperation is very big,” Prikhodko told Itar-Tass.

“We are for the continuation of any useful format. In the opinion of the Russian side, this troika format is useful as an addition to regular Russia-EU, G8 and G20 summits,” the Kremlin official stressed.

He cited as an example of such informal summits the Weimar Triangle (France, Germany, Poland) and the Visegrad Four (Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic).

Prikhodko added, “Medvedev plans no separate meetings in Deauville.”

He recalled that the initiative to create the Russian-German-French mechanism of interaction emerged in March 1998 at an informal meeting of the heads of the three countries. The main task of the troika then was “to promote the development of a multi-polar world excluding the possibility of dominance by any single power.”

The first such summit was held in Strasbourg in 1998 with the participation of Russia’s first President Boris Yeltsin. After that the troika gathered in 2003, 2004 and 2005. Vladimir Putin represented Russia at those meetings.

“We are, certainly, ready for the continuation of such meetings (after Deauville), it is an additional opportunity for us to discuss vital issues without protocol,” Prikhodko said. He did not answer a question why the troika has had a five-year interval in the meetings, and only said that the leaders had decided to gather when everybody was ready for it. “We are interested to continue such meetings,” he said.

“High on the agenda of the summit in the Group of Three format are prospects for building a democratic space of equal and indivisible security in the Euro-Atlantic region and Eurasia that should match modern political realities and give joint responses to common threats and challenges,” Prikhodko said.

Russia “gives priority to the promotion of the initiative, which President Dmitry Medvedev put forward in 2008 to draft a new European security treaty,” he noted.

The Russian leader said earlier in the day, “Jointly with my colleagues – French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, we will discuss security in Europe.”

“I’d like to recall that my idea regarding the signing of a new European security treaty is aimed at this. I’d like this treaty and other efforts taken by our country in the field of security to receive a worthy response in the world,” he stressed.

According to Medvedev, “security is important not only for Europe but also for the Asia Pacific Region, for Africa and for America.” “That is why we will continue our efforts in all directions. The task, which is aimed at promoting this international agenda and improving security institutions, is correlated with modernisation of our country, our economy and our political system,” he emphasised.

“The purpose of this approach is to overcome the stereotypes and give up previous mentality. I believe that we have succeeded in doing this. Our contacts with the United States of America, Russian-Polish relations, the signing of the Russian-Norwegian border deal in the Barents Sea and other political events testify to this,” he said.

Medvedev also said, “Modern international relations should develop on a democratic basis. Recently I’ve spoke about this at the forum in Yaroslavl where I spelled out my vision on democratic standards.”

The summiteers “will share opinions on the Iranian nuclear problem, primarily in line with the development of positive tendencies that are taking shape after the meeting of the Sextet foreign ministers in New York,” Prikhodko underlined. Alongside, Prikhodko added that the resumption of the Sextet negotiations on the Iranian nuclear problem could hardly be discussed in practical terms at the summit of the leaders of Russia, France and Germany. “We cannot take separate isolated decisions. This is not a prerogative of the Group of Three,” he elaborated.

“Medvedev, Sarkozy and Merkel are expected to come out in support of the direct Palestinian-Israeli dialogue,” the Kremlin official said.

The Deauville summiteers “will also discuss preparations and will synchronise the positions ahead of forthcoming major foreign political events – an OSCE summit (Astana, December 1-2) and a Russia-EU summit (Brussels, December 7),” Prikhodko added.

Photostream : Russian President meets French, German leaders in Deauville

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy (C), German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev meet in Deauville October 18, 2010. Merkel and Medvedev are in Deauville to attend a tripartite summit between France, Germany and Russia. (Getty Images / REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer )

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy (C), German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev listen to national anthems in Deauville October 18, 2010. Merkel and Medvedev are in Deauville to attend a tripartite summit between France, Germany and Russia. (Getty Images / REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer )

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy (C)and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) welcome Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev in Deauville October 18, 2010. Merkel and Medvedev are in Deauville to attend a tripartite summit between France, Germany and Russia. (Getty Images / REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer )

German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, left, French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, center, and Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, are seen after their meeting in Deauville, France, Monday, Oct. 18, 2010. The leaders of France, Germany and Russia meet for two-day summit in this French resort of Deauville to discuss joint security challenges and the upcoming G-20 summit. (Getty Images / AP Photo/Philippe Wojazer, Pool)

Medvedev to discuss security, visas with leaders of France, Germany

 

FILE : French President Nicolas Sarkozy , Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attend a trilateral meeting during the first G-20 at the Convention Center on June 27, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario Canada. (Pictured: Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel , Dmitry Medvedev ) Photo by Olivier Douliery /ABACAUSA.COM

 

October 18, 2010 (KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI) — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will meet with French and German leaders on Monday to discuss, among other things, European security and the Russia-EU visa regime.

The talks between Medvedev, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Deauville, northern France, would resume after the five-year break with a working dinner on Monday. Three-party consultations are scheduled for Tuesday morning, followed by a joint news conference.

“A three-sided meeting is not an exclusive club to work out decisions separately from other states, but rather a convenient format for discussing our common vision in a trustful, frank atmosphere with our closest partners in Europe,” Prikhodko said.

Regarding European security, Prikhodko said Russia wants to promote Medvedev’s European security treaty initiative.

Medvedev proposed drawing up a new European security pact in June 2008, and Russia published a draft of the treaty in December 2009, sending copies to heads of state and international organizations, including NATO. However, the proposal has been met coolly by Western powers.

Prikhodko also said that soonest introduction eased visa regime between Russia and the European Union will be among the key issues on the agenda.

“The first issue that we would put forward will be the eased procedure of visa issuance and introduction of advanced methods in data processing,” the Kremlin official said.

He did not rule out that Russia may raise the question of scrapping visa regime with the EU, which has become a major foreign policy goal in Moscow’s relations with Brussels.

Russia submitted a draft agreement on scrapping visa requirements to the European Union at the Russia-EU summit in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don on May 31. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on the same day that “the majority of our partners in Europe support this idea,” but several EU states reject it, mainly for political reasons.

Prikhodko said that energy issues, Iran’s controversial nuclear program, as well as Russia-NATO and Russia-EU cooperation would also be discussed at the meeting.

MOSCOW, October 18 (RIA Novosti)

Sarkozy Says French Hostage Killed By Al-Qaida in North Africa

French Enmilal aid group member Michel Germaneau (2007 File)

July 26, 2010
(KATAKAMI / VOA)  French President Nicolas Sarkozy has confirmed that a French hostage was killed by al-Qaida’s branch in North Africa.

President Sarkozy said Monday during a television broadcast he condemned the “barbarous act” against Michel Germaneau, a French aid worker.

In an audio message broadcast Sunday on the Arabic network Al-Jazeera, a man identified as the leader of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb said Germaneau was killed in retaliation for the death of six al-Qaida members during a raid last week in Mali.

The al-Qaida leader said Mr. Sarkozy was unable to free Germaneau through a “failed” military operation.

Mr. Sarkozy also urged French citizens to avoid traveling to Africa’s Sahel region.  Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb has carried out numerous attacks and kidnappings across the Sahara and Sahel regions.

Germaneau, a 78-year-old engineer, was kidnapped with his Algerian driver near Niger’s border with Algeria and Mali in April.  The driver was later released.

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb had given France until Monday to arrange a prisoner exchange for Germaneau’s release.  The group said in an Internet statement that Mr. Sarkozy would be responsible for Germaneau’s life.

The terrorist group operates across a vast desert region that includes Algeria, Mali, Niger and Mauritania.

President Sarkozy confirms death of French hostage Germaneau

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy delivers a speech during a limited security and defence council at the Elysee Palace, Monday, July 26 2010. (Getty Images)
July 26, 2010
(KATAKAMI / FRANCE24)  French President Nicolas Sarkozy has condemned the “assassination” of Michel Germaneau, a French national kidnapped in Niger in April and held in Mauritania by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which claimed to have killed the 78-year-old aid worker in a televised statement on Sunday.

Sarkozy holds security meeting over al-Qaida claim

July 26, 2010

(KATAKAMI / CHARLOTTEOBSERVER.COM)  PARIS French President Nicolas Sarkozy has convened an emergency government meeting to discuss security after an al-Qaida offshoot claimed to have killed a French hostage in Africa.

The leader of al-Qaida’s North African branch said in a message broadcast Sunday that the 78-year-old French engineer was killed in retaliation for the killing of six al-Qaida members in a raid.

That raid last week was led by Mauritanian forces aided by the French military.

Humanitarian worker Michel Germaneau was abducted April 22 in Niger.

Sarkozy’s office and other French officials would not confirm or comment on the audio message.

But Sarkozy is meeting several of his Cabinet ministers Monday morning.

Al-Qaeda says Frenchman killed after failed rescue

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Nicolas Sarkozy (Getty Images)

July 26, 2010

(KATAKAMI / THEAGE.COM.AU)  French President Nicolas Sarkozy convened a crisis meeting Monday after an Al-Qaeda affiliate in the Sahara said it had killed a 78-year-old French hostage to avenge a deadly but failed rescue raid.

French authorities said they were trying to verify the claim, made by the head of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in an audio statement broadcast by Al-Jazeera.

“We announce that we executed the French hostage Michel Germaneau on Saturday July 24, 2010, to avenge the killing of our six brothers in the cowardly French raid,” on Thursday, AQIM chief Abu Musab Abdul Wadud said.

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// “Sarkozy failed to free his compatriot in this operation but he has, without any doubt, opened for his people and for his country one of the gates of hell,” Wadud warned.

“In a rapid and just response to the ignoble actions of France, we announce that we have executed the French hostage.”

The emergency meeting at 9:00 am would include Prime Minister Francois Fillon, Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Defence Minister Herve Morin, the president’s office announced.

The French presidency said it had received “no confirmation” of the killing of Germaneau, who was kidnapped in northern Niger on April 19, adding that it was trying to verify the claim.

But a senior French official who asked not to be named told AFP Sunday that Paris was convinced that Germaneau had “been dead for several weeks.”

On May 14, his abductors issued a photo of an exhausted-looking Germaneau, together with a taped message in which he appealed to Sarkozy to work for his release.

He said he suffered from a serious heart illness and had no more medication and that he was struggling with the heat.

Germaneau’s Algerian driver, who was also abducted, was later released. He said the Frenchman was being held in a desert zone in Mali.

AQIM on July 11 gave France a 15-day deadline to help secure the release of its members in the region, warning that Germaneau would be killed if Paris failed to comply.

The looming deadline saw between 20 and 30 French soldiers involved in a raid Thursday on a remote camp in the Malian desert by Mauritanian forces.

Six members of AQIM, an offshoot of Osama bin Laden’s network, were killed in the operation, officials have said.

Documents, bomb-making equipment, guns and ammunition were found during the pre-dawn assault but soldiers found no evidence that Germaneau had been held there.

Earlier on Sunday, Mali security sources expressed growing fears for Germaneau’s fate after the failed raid and the mayor of the Paris region where he lived said he believed the hostage’s chances of survival were slim.

“Either Michel Germaneau has been executed, or the terrorists are about to do it,” Olivier Thomas, the mayor of Marcoussis, told AFP.

Germaneau was working with the Enmilal aid agency to improve health services and schools at the time of his kidnap.

France has said it had received no direct demands from Germaneau’s kidnappers but was taking their reported threat to kill him seriously.

AQIM is also holding two Spaniards in the region after kidnapping them more than seven months ago: Albert Vilalta, 35, and 50-year-old Roque Pascual.

France had “consulted” Spain over Thursday’s operation, said a French defence ministry source.

The raid had prompted “anxiety” in Madrid over how it might affect the Spanish hostages, according to Spanish media reports.

AQIM has also been held responsible for the murder of British hostage Edwin Dyer, 60, who was kidnapped by Islamic extremists in the Sahel region bordering the Sahara desert in January 2009.

Malian authorities blamed that killing on AQIM cell leader Abou Zeid, also known as Abib Hammadou, a 43-year-old Algerian who is listed on United Nations documents as a known Al-Qaeda member.

Medvedev congratulates Sarkozy on the French national holiday, Bastille Day

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July 14, 2010

(KATAKAMI / KREMLIN.RU)  Dmitry Medvedev sent a message of congratulations to President of France Nicolas Sarkozy on the French national holiday, Bastille Day.

The President said in his message, in particular:

“Russia and France are working ever more fruitfully together in a broad range of areas today. The summits in Paris and St Petersburg were further evidence of the strategic nature of our relations and our mutual long-term commitment to implementing promising big projects aimed at ensuring our trade and economic partnership’s stable growth. We are also ready to continue building up our mutually advantageous business cooperation with an emphasis on advanced technology.

We think the bilateral dialogue we pursue on coordinating our approaches to topical issues on the international agenda is very useful and important. I am sure that Russia and France, through their joint constructive efforts, can make a big contribution to settling regional conflicts and effectively addressing the global threats and challenges facing humanity in the twenty-first century.

Our multifaceted ties have received a big boost in their expansion through the organisation of the Year of Russia in France and the Year of France in Russia. The extensive programmes of interlinked events organised for this project highlight just how closely interwoven are the history and culture of countries, and how deep are our traditions of friendship, respect and sympathy.”

Nicolas Sarkozy accused of colonial nostalgia over Bastille Day parade

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July 13, 2010

(KATAKAMI / GUARDIAN.CO.UK)  Half a century ago, from the desert plains of Mauritania to the forests of Madagascar, a wave of independence movements swept across French-speaking Africa and saw the birth of new nations that hoped to free themselves forever from the yoke of colonialism.

Tomorrow, as the centrepiece of Bastille Day celebrations dreamed up by Paris to mark the 50th anniversary of its farewell to empire, troops from 13 of those countries will march down the Champs Elysées alongside their French military counterparts.

But instead of the dignified occasion the government had envisaged, the ceremony has been attacked as cynical and tactless by some observers who see it as an unseemly display of France’s continuing interference in Africa.

Nicolas Sarkozy was forced to defend himself against accusations that, by emphasising France’s role in the events of 1960, he was indulging in an unpalatable form of “colonial nostalgia”.

“This is a complete misinterpretation,” said the president, stressing the “injustices and errors” of the colonial era at a lunch for the heads of state of 12 former colonies. “The aim of this meeting is therefore not to celebrate your independence – you can do that very well yourself,” he added. “It is to celebrate the strength of the links which history has woven between our peoples. And the strength of this meeting is to build together our future.”

In keeping with this spirit of contrition, Sarkozy announced that France would raise the pensions of African veterans who fought under the tricolore in the 20th century to the same level as those of French nationals. The move, which will benefit thousands of former soldiers living overseas, had been expected since May, when the constitutional council ruled that the disparities between veterans of different nationalities living in the same country were unjust.

Champ de Mars, Paris, Bastille Day

Bastille Day in Paris has taken on unwelcome colonialist overtones this year. Photograph: Benoit Tessier / Reuters/REUTERS

But, while Sarkozy might be hoping the gesture will dispel concerns about Wednesday’s unprecedented procession, he would be wrong. Objections have been made repeatedly in Africa and France.

“The 50 years of independence is our anniversary, not France’s,” Ivory Coast’s ambassador to Paris, Pierre Kipré, told the magazine Jeune Afrique, in an explanation of why his president, Laurent Gbagbo, had refused to attend the Bastille Day events. “It is not up to it to organise it for us; it is tactless of it to do so.”

While Gbagbo’s snub was largely due to a mutual frostiness between the two countries over his postponement of elections, the comments nonetheless reflect the resentment of those in Africa who feel France should keep its distance.

French critics, meanwhile, have focused their objections on what they say is the return to the bad old days of Paris’s meddling in the continent for its own cynical reasons.When he came to power, Sarkozy promised a break with the past policies of “Francafrique”, vowing a healthier relationship between the colonial-era master and its former subjects. Three years on, however, many critics say little has changed.

Last week Jean-Christophe Rufin, France’s recently departed ambassador to Senegal, unleashed an unusually outspoken attack on this failure. “I came in with a simple contract. We were told … there is going to be a complete change in our African policy. Francafrique was over,” he told French radio. “Clearly … you can see that it hasn’t happened.”

The heads of state of 12 countries – Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Gabon, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Central African Republic, Senegal, Chad and Togo – were welcomed today (TUES) at the Elysée Palace. Ivory Coast’s defence minister attended in place of Gbagbo, while the disputed leader of Madagascar, Andry Rajoelina, was not invited. Malagasy troops will, however, join the parade in Paris.

Elysée lunch for heads of former French colonies draws criticism

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July 13, 2010

(KATAKAMI / FRANCE24)  The invitation of 12 leaders of former French colonies in Africa to a lunch at the Elysée Palace on the eve of the July 14 celebrations has led to accusations that France has failed to move on from its post-colonial relationship with the continent.

The attendance of a dozen leaders of France’s former African colonies* at the Elysée Palace for lunch with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on the eve of the 14 July celebrations has disappointed progressives hoping for a change in France’s relationship with Africa.

On July 14 itself, soldiers from these countries will march down the Champs Elysees in Paris for the traditional “Bastille Day” parade.

The involvement of former colonies in France’s national day marks 50 years since they gained independence; Sarkozy insists that their participation has nothing to do with “colonial nostalgia”.

Sarkozy has also announced that all former colonial combatants (about 30,000) who served France in past conflicts will receive pensions in line with their French counterparts, no matter where they live.

Exclusive relationship

However, the invitation is controversial and has been criticised as a return to a post-colonial relationship between France and its old African colonies – “La Françafrique” – that progressives hoped to have seen the back of.

The exclusivity of the “Françafrique” approach, they argue, does little or nothing to encourage the development of democracy in these countries.

French association “Survie” (Survival), which lobbies for the redrawing of the French-African relationship, said it was shocked by the lunch invitation, which spokesman Olivier Thimonier said harked back to the bad old days.

“Nothing has changed,” he said. “France is still just looking after its own interests without trying to encourage real democracy in these countries.”

“Survie” is not the only voice of dissent. François Hollande, former leader of the opposition Socialist Party, said: “We’re back in the politics of networks, of displays of collusion.”

Pointing out that France’s Minister for Cooperation [effectively for Africa] Alain Joyandet was recently sacked and not replaced, he added: “What’s worse is that France’s African policy is now completely in the hands of the Elysée Palace and the president’s immediate entourage.”

Sarkozy dismisses ‘shameful’ Bettencourt donation claim

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France’s President Sarkozy (L), seen in this video grab from France2 Television, appears during a prime time news interview with journalist David Pujadas on France2 television in the garden of the Elysee Palace in Paris July 12, 2010. (Getty)

July 12, 2010

(KATAKAMI / BBC) French President Nicolas Sarkozy has dismissed accusations he received illegal donations from the richest woman in France, Liliane Bettencourt.

He called the allegations lies and calumny, and claimed his opponents were trying to destabilise the government as it tried to reform the pension system.

Mr Sarkozy also expressed confidence in Labour Minister Eric Woerth, who is accused of accepting illegal donations.

Both Mr Woerth and Mr Sarkozy deny any wrongdoing, as does Mrs Bettencourt.

Tax inspectors have already cleared Mr Woerth, who was budget minister until March, of shielding the L’Oreal heiress from an audit.

“Things are clear, and it is true that I am relieved, enormously relieved,” he told reporters earlier.

‘Vital reform’

BBC’s Hugh Schofield in Paris says President Sarkozy was at his most combative in the hour-long interview with France 2 television carried live from the Elysee Palace on Monday evening.

He said the allegations were part of a “campaign” to blacken his name and make it harder to pass a contested pension reform plan that has already brought millions of protesters to the streets.

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France’s President Sarkozy (L), seen in this video grab from France2 Television, appears during a prime time news interview with journalist David Pujadas on France2 television in the garden of the Elysee Palace in Paris July 12, 2010. (Getty)

“I was described as someone who for 20 years has been going to Mrs Bettencourt’s house to pick up envelopes. It’s shameful.”

“France is not a corrupt country,” he added.

Asked whether he would dismiss Mr Woerth, who is also treasurer of the governing Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), Mr Sarkozy declared: “Eric Woerth is an honest, competent man. He has my full confidence. He is the minister who will defend this vital pensions reform.”

But the president said that to avoid any controversy, he had asked Mr Woerth to “devote himself exclusively” to the role and step down as UMP treasurer.

He would also ask parliament to set up a commission to look at guidelines “to avoid all forms of conflict of interest”, he added.

Mr Sarkozy said he was determined to see through the pension reforms – which include raising the state retirement age from 60 to 62 and making people contribute longer for a full pension – a key part of his government’s pledge to cut France’s budget deficit to within EU limits within the next three years.

Socialist Party leader Martine Aubry said the president’s comments showed he was not aware of public anger at the scandal, the pension reforms, and at high unemployment and financial insecurity.

“We expected this evening, like the rest of the French people, clarifications and decisions,” she said. “We had neither one nor the other.”

Apartment searched

The allegations surrounding Mr Sarkozy and Mr Woerth surfaced in connection with a trial over the estimated 17bn-euro fortune of Mrs Bettencourt, 87, whose father founded the cosmetics giant, L’Oreal.

Mrs Bettencourt’s daughter Francoise is suing celebrity photographer Francois-Marie Banier, a close friend of her mother’s, for allegedly exploiting her mental fragility to gain access to her fortune.

Mr Woerth has also come under scrutiny because his wife worked for the company that managed Mrs Bettencourt’s fortune, and their names emerged in tapes secretly recorded by Mrs Bettencourt’s butler.

The tapes suggested that Mrs Bettencourt had been making cash donations to members of the UMP including Mr Woerth, and that she had been avoiding taxes.

Mrs Bettencourt’s former accountant also accused the minister of accepting an illegal donation of 150,000 euros from her wealth manager, Patrice de Maistre.

Hours before Mr Sarkozy spoke, police searched the Paris apartment of Ms Banier.

Our correspondent says many in France believe that the Bettencourt saga has touched the president at his weakest point – an excessive interest in, and an indulgence of, the very wealthy. (*)

Defiant De Gaulle War Broadcast Remembered

A French General (L) gives a helping hand to a British World War II veteran (C) ahead of a parade in front of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British PM David Cameron in London, 18 Jun 2010
A French General (L) gives a helping hand to a British World War II veteran (C) ahead of a parade in front of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British PM David Cameron in London, 18 Jun 2010

June 18, 2010

(VOA)  Seventy years to the day, Charles de Gaulle’s historic broadcast signaling the beginning of the French Resistance movement during World War II was remembered.  On June 18, 1940,  Mr. de Gaulle opened his microphone in London in a radio transmission sent to occupied France.  French President Nicolas Sarkozy traveled to Britain to mark the anniversary.

History was remembered Friday at the building housing the radio headquarters of the BBC in central London.  It was there, at Broadcasting House, on this date in 1940 that General de Gaulle fired an opening verbal salvo against the Nazis, when he urged his fellow countrymen and women to resist their German occupiers.

Using emotive language, the general said, “Whatever happens, the flame of the French Resistance must not and will not be extinguished.”

Mr. De Gaulle had just escaped from France with some of his men, and they knew a long, difficult road lay ahead.

Remembering those tough days, French President Sarkozy and his wife, Carla, visited the very studio where Mr. de Gaulle uttered his words.

Mr. Sarkozy expressed his eternal gratitude to the British.

The French president then moved on to a wreath-laying ceremony at the location where Mr. de Gaulle coordinated the resistance from his wartime offices. Mr. Sarkozy was joined by Prince Charles.

Mr. Sarkozy also held talks with Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, who said the general’s speech had everything to do with one word: hope.

“Seventy years ago, when darkness was creeping across our continent, when the shadow of tyranny was stretching over France, a flame of hope was lit, not very far from here by General de Gaulle,” said Cameron.

In addition to the sense of history, Mr. Sarkozy and Prime Minister Cameron also discussed the pressing issues of the day over lunch at 10 Downing Street, including shared priorities over defense and a unified approach to the tough economic climate.

Sarkozy marks historic de Gaulle war broadcast in UK

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Lady Soames, daughter of Britain’s former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy, Britan’s Prime Minister David Cameron, Sarkozy’s wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and David Cameron’s wife Samantha Cameron attend a ceremony during his visit to the Royal Hospital Chelsea on June 18, 2010, in London, England.

(BBC)   French President Nicolas Sarkozy has completed a visit to London marking the 70th anniversary of Charles de Gaulle’s defiant wartime broadcast.

After visiting the BBC radio studio where the general urged France to resist the Nazis, he expressed “eternal gratitude” for Britain’s war effort.

Mr Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni met the Prince of Wales to lay wreaths at Gen de Gaulle’s statue.

The president and British PM David Cameron also met 200 WWII veterans.

‘Shoulder to shoulder’

During a ceremony at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, Mr Sarkozy told them he brought the “brotherly greetings and eternal gratitude of the French people” who remembered what Britain had “accomplished… for our freedom”.

He also awarded the Legion d’Honneur to six of the veterans – three of them British – who took part in the Operation Dragoon landings in Provence in August 1944.

Analysis

Peter Biles
Peter Biles,
BBC world affairs correspondent

There was a buzz of excitement outside Broadcasting House as President Sarkozy and his wife Carla arrived at the BBC’s headquarters in Portland Place.

Staff had been busy since dawn making final preparations for the French leader’s visit.

Inside the Artists’ Lobby, the president was shown a wartime microphone and famous tapestry, La Poete, by Jean Lurcat.

Described as a powerful metaphor for broadcasting and freedom, it was given to the BBC by the French government as a thank you for the World War II broadcasts.

The Broadcasting House complex – under redevelopment – is a very different place to when Gen de Gaulle entered studio 4B on 18 June 1940.

The truth is not many people heard that original broadcast, but many more followed.

Few, however, are in any doubt that “L’Appel du 18 Juin” was a turning point in modern French history.

Sarkozy talks at No 10 ‘warm’

Mr Cameron said the anniversary was a “reminder that Britain and France are not just neighbours in the geographical sense but also in the emotional sense”.

He said he was committed to working with France to face “huge challenges”.

“Just as our two great countries stood together in the past, so we must stand shoulder to shoulder today,” he said.

The leaders’ arrival at the home of the Chelsea Pensioners was greeted with a flypast of a Spitfire, Typhoon and French Air Force Rafale.

Troops from the Household Cavalry Mounted Detachment attended the hospital while bands played the two countries’ anthems.

A student from the Charles de Gaulle school in London then read the general’s speech to Mr Sarkozy.

The UK visit began at BBC Broadcasting House, where Mr Sarkozy unveiled a plaque and viewed a tapestry presented in thanks to the BBC by France after World War II.

The president then met Prince Charles at Clarence House before laying wreaths at the statue of George VI on the Mall.

More wreaths were then laid at Gen de Gaulle’s statue, near the headquarters of the Free French forces during the war.

Limited audience

Mr Cameron also held an hour of talks with Mr Sarkozy at Downing Street, focused on efforts to boost European growth, the conflict in Afghanistan and other foreign policy matters.

In total about 800 people from the Charles de Gaulle Foundation, the Free French Foundation and other groups visited London to join events.

Many had made the journey on a specially chartered Eurostar.

DE GAULLE’S HISTORIC BROADCAST

Charles de Gaulle's broadcast on 18 June 1940
  • Gen de Gaulle fled France on 17 June 1940 as a new administration sought an armistice with Hitler
  • The next evening he urged the French to fight on in a BBC radio address from Broadcasting House
  • Britain had turned his request to broadcast down, but the decision was reversed after PM Winston Churchill intervened
  • To the general’s fury, his speech was not recorded, so he returned four days later to deliver his message again

Blog: Head of BBC History on visit Speech changed fate of France

Mr Sarkozy’s visit was the first by a French president to mark Gen de Gaulle’s broadcast on 18 June 1940.

The general had fled his country the day before as a new administration, headed by Philippe Petain, sought an armistice with Hitler.

In the stirring radio appeal Gen de Gaulle declared himself leader of the “Free French”, spawning the French Resistance, which went on to play a crucial role in defeating the Germans.

He told his nation that “the flame of the French resistance must not and will not be extinguished”.

Posters displaying his words were put up all over London in the days that followed the broadcast, to galvanise French exiles.

Gen de Gaulle was given a hero’s welcome after the liberation of Paris in August 1944, but historians point out that he was not seen as a saviour in 1940.

They say his now revered broadcast went almost unnoticed at the time, with a very limited audience on the BBC French Service.

Mr Sarkozy made a state visit to the UK with his supermodel-turned-singer wife in March 2008.

Photostream : French President Nicolas Sarkozy meets British Prime Minister David Cameron

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LONDON, ENGLAND – JUNE 18: French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy are kissed goodbye by Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha on the steps of Downing Street on June 18, 2010 in London, England. President Sarkozy and his wife are visiting London for the day to commemorate President de Gaulle’s famous wartime broadcast to Nazi occupied France. De Gaulle fled France on June 17, 1940 and in his broadcast the next day he declared himself leader of the ‘Free French’, leading to the formation of the French Resistance movement which went on to play a vital role in defeating the Germans.

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British Prime Minister David Cameron (2nd L), and his wife Samantha (R) greet French President Nicolas Sarkozy (2nd R) and his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy on the steps of 10 Downing Street in central London on June 18, 2010. Sarkozy and World War II veterans visited London Friday to mark the 70th anniversary of Charles de Gaulle’s rousing radio appeal to his compatriots to resist the Nazi occupation. On June 18, 1940, four days after the fall of Paris and as the French government prepared to sign an armistice with Germany, the exiled military leader issued an impassioned appeal over the BBC airwaves to those back home.

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LONDON, ENGLAND – JUNE 18: French President Nicolas Sarkozy (2R) and his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy (L) sit with Prime Minister David Cameron (2L) and his wife Samantha Cameron (R) inside Number 10 Downing Street on June 18, 2010 in London, England. President Sarkozy and his wife are visiting London for the day to commemorate President de Gaulle’s famous wartime broadcast to Nazi occupied France. De Gaulle fled France on June 17, 1940 and in his broadcast the next day he declared himself leader of the ‘Free French’, leading to the formation of the French Resistance movement which went on to play a vital role in defeating the Germans.

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French First Lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy (L), and her husband, French President Nicolas Sarkozy (2nd L), share a light moment with British Prime Minister David Cameron (R) and his wife Samantha during a parade at The Royal Hospital Chelsea, in London June 18, 2010. Sarkozy and World War II veterans visited London Friday to mark the 70th anniversary of Charles de Gaulle’s rousing radio appeal to his compatriots to resist the Nazi occupation. On June 18, 1940, four days after the fall of Paris and as the French government prepared to sign an armistice with Germany, the exiled military leader issued an impassioned appeal over the BBC airwaves to those back home.

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Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron (L) embraces French President Nicolas Sarkozy in between speeches at The Royal Hospital Chelsea in London June 18, 2010. Sarkozy and World War II veterans visited London Friday to mark the 70th anniversary of Charles de Gaulle’s rousing radio appeal to his compatriots to resist the Nazi occupation. On June 18, 1940, four days after the fall of Paris and as the French government prepared to sign an armistice with Germany, the exiled military leader issued an impassioned appeal over the BBC airwaves to those back home.

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LONDON, ENGLAND – JUNE 18: British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) and French President Nicolas Sarkozy listen to the national anthems during a parade at The Royal Hospital Cheslea on June 18, 2010, in London, England. Sarkozy and his wife are visiting London for the day to commemorate President de Gaulle’s famous wartime broadcast to Nazi occupied France. De Gaulle fled France on June 17, 1940 and in his broadcast the next day he declared himself leader of the ‘Free French’, leading to the formation of the French Resistance Movement which went on to play a vital role in defeating the Germans.

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Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron (C) embraces French President Nicolas Sarkozy in between speeches at The Royal Hospital Chelsea in London June 18, 2010. Sarkozy and World War II veterans visited London Friday to mark the 70th anniversary of Charles de Gaulle’s rousing radio appeal to his compatriots to resist the Nazi occupation. On June 18, 1940, four days after the fall of Paris and as the French government prepared to sign an armistice with Germany, the exiled military leader issued an impassioned appeal over the BBC airwaves to those back home.

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LONDON, ENGLAND – JUNE 18: (L-R) Lady Soames, daughter of Britain’s former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy, Britan’s Prime Minister David Cameron, Sarkozy’s wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and David Cameron’s wife Samantha Cameron attend a ceremony during his visit to the Royal Hospital Chelsea on June 18, 2010, in London, England. Sarkozy and his wife are visiting London for the day to commemorate President de Gaulle’s famous wartime broadcast to Nazi occupied France. De Gaulle fled France on June 17, 1940 and in his broadcast the next day he declared himself leader of the ‘Free French’, leading to the formation of the French Resistance Movement which went on to play a vital role in defeating the Germans.

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LONDON, ENGLAND – JUNE 18: France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy, (2R), and Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, (R) meet attendees of a ceremony during their visit to the Royal Hospital Chelsea on June 18, 2010 in London, England. Sarkozy and his wife are visiting London for the day to commemorate President de Gaulle’s famous wartime broadcast to Nazi occupied France. De Gaulle fled France on June 17, 1940 and in his broadcast the next day he declared himself leader of the ‘Free French’, leading to the formation of the French Resistance Movement which went on to play a vital role in defeating the Germans.

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LONDON – JUNE 18: (L-R) British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy talk with Legion de Honeur recipients and World War II veterans Walter Freegard, Glynne Medlicott, and Alex Sutton during a parade at the Royal Chelsea Hospital on June 18, 2010 in London, England. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy are visiting London for the day to commemorate President Charles de Gaulle’s famous wartime broadcast to Nazi-occupied France. De Gaulle fled France on June 17, 1940 and in his broadcast the next day he declared himself leader of the ‘Free French’, leading to the formation of the French Resistance Movement, which went on to play a vital role in defeating the Germans.

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LONDON – JUNE 18: Samantha Cameron, wife of British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) greets Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, wife of President Nicolas Sarkozy at the Royal Chelsea Hospital on June 18, June 2010 in London, England. French President Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy are visiting London for the day to commemorate President de Gaulle’s famous wartime broadcast to Nazi occupied France. De Gaulle fled France on June 17, 1940 and in his broadcast the next day he declared himself leader of the ‘Free French’, leading to the formation of the French Resistance Movement which went on to play a vital role in defeating the Germans.

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LONDON – JUNE 18: Samantha Cameron (L), wife of British Prime Minister David Cameron, greets Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, wife of President Nicolas Sarkozy at the Royal Chelsea Hospital on June 18, 2010 in London, England. French President Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy are visiting London for the day to commemorate President Charles de Gaulle’s famous wartime broadcast to Nazi-occupied France. De Gaulle fled France on June 17, 1940 and in his broadcast the next day he declared himself leader of the ‘Free French’, leading to the formation of the French Resistance Movement, which went on to play a vital role in defeating the Germans.

Photostream : French President Nicolas Sarkoz meets Prince of Wales

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LONDON, ENGLAND – JUNE 18: President of the French Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy and HRH Prince Charles, Prince of Wales lay wreaths at the statue of Charles De Gaulle on June 18, 2010 in London, England. Sarkozy and his wife are visiting London for the day to commemorate pesident de Gaulle’s famous wartime broadcast to Nazi occupied France. De Gaulle fled France on June 17, 1940 and in his broadcast the next day he declared himself leader of the ‘Free French’, leading to the formation of the French Resistance Movement which went on to play a vital role in defeating the Germans.

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Britain’s Prince Charles, center, greets the French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy at Clarence House in London Friday, June, 18, 2010. Clarence House is the London home of Prince Charles.

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Britain’s Prince Charles, second right, greets the French President Nicolas Sarkozy, second left, and his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy at Clarence House in London Friday, June, 18, 2010. Clarence House is the London home of Prince Charles.

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LONDON, ENGLAND – JUNE 18: French President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) and his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy (C) walk to a statue of General Charles De Gaulle with HRH Prince Charles (R) after laying a wreath at the statues of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth on June 18, 2010 in London, England. President Sarkozy and his wife are visiting London for the day to commemorate President de Gaulle’s famous wartime broadcast to Nazi occupied France. De Gaulle fled France on June 17, 1940 and in his broadcast the next day he declared himself leader of the ‘Free French’, leading to the formation of the French Resistance movement which went on to play a vital role in defeating the Germans.

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LONDON, ENGLAND – JUNE 18: Carla Bruni-Sarkozy (2R) and her husband, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prince Charles, Prince of Wales look at photographs of French President Charles De Gaulle during a visit to the former headquarters of the ‘Free French’, at Carlton Gardens on June 18, 2010 in London, England. Sarkozy and his wife are visiting London for the day to commemorate President de Gaulle’s famous wartime broadcast to Nazi occupied France. De Gaulle fled France on June 17, 1940 and in his broadcast the next day he declared himself leader of the ‘Free French’, leading to the formation of the French Resistance Movement which went on to play a vital role in defeating the Germans.

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy (L), his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy (2nd R) and Britain’s Prince Charles (R) look at photographs of French President Charles De Gaulle during a visit to the former headquarters of the Free French, at Carlton Gardens in central London on June 18, 2010. Sarkozy and World War II veterans visited London Friday to mark the 70th anniversary of Charles de Gaulle’s rousing radio appeal to his compatriots to resist the Nazi occupation. On June 18, 1940, four days after the fall of Paris and as the French government prepared to sign an armistice with Germany, the exiled military leader issued an impassioned appeal over the BBC airwaves to those back home.

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, second right, and Britain’s Prince Charles, right, look at photographs of French President Charles De Gaulle during a visit to London headquarters of the Free French, the fighters led by de Gaulle, who rejected their country’s surrender to Nazi Germany, on Friday June 18, 2010. Sarkozy marked the 70th anniversary of Charles de Gaulle’s defiant World War II broadcast from London on Friday, visiting the studio where the leader urged his compatriots to resist the German occupation.

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LONDON, ENGLAND – JUNE 18: French President Nicolas Sarkozy (Centre Left) and HRH Prince Charles (Centre Right) prepare to lay a wreath at the statues of HM King George VI and HM Queen Elizabeth on June 18, 2010 in London, England. President Sarkozy and his wife are visiting London for the day to commemorate President de Gaulle’s famous wartime broadcast to Nazi occupied France. De Gaulle fled France on June 17, 1940 and in his broadcast the next day he declared himself leader of the ‘Free French’, leading to the formation of the French Resistance movement which went on to play a vital role in defeating the Germans.