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French Version

Chirac warns Syria to end 'unacceptable interference' in Lebanese affairs

French leader joins mubarak in opposing attack on iran

French President Jacques Chirac has called on Syria to end all interference in Lebanon's internal affairs, adding he fully supports an international investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri. Speaking late Wednesday at a joint news conference with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Chirac said: "France has nothing against Syria, but it simply wants Syria to cease any form of interference in Lebanon. It's unacceptable."

Chirac also said he backed "full sovereignty" for Lebanon and said "light must be shed" the murder of Hariri," killed in a February 2005 bomb blast. He called on Beirut and Damascus to recognize each other's existence, a clear reference to the establishment of diplomatic relations and demarcation of borders. Chirac also called for the full implementation of Resolution 1559 that calls for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, for free and fair presidential elections and for the disarmament of all militias.

He described as "positive" the latest report of UN envoy Terje Roed-Larsen on the progress in the implementation of the resolution adopted in 2004.

Chirac said he and Mubarak agreed on Middle Eastern issues from aid to the Palestinians, to Iran's nuclear program and the simmering conflict between Lebanon and Syria.

Both were opposed to military intervention in Iran, fearing it would destabilize the Middle East and the world as a whole.

Mubarak said: "We think this subject must be solved by diplomatic and political means and we should try to exhaust all means and stay away from military operations which could have dangerous effects on the region and maybe on the world."

Chirac said: "Today we must explore all the possibilities offered by diplomatic action to avoid a destabilization which could be very serious for the Middle East."

Mubarak repeated his view that a civil war was under way in Iraq, defying criticism by Iraqi politicians of similar remarks he made in an interview last week.

"They are fighting each other. If we say this they get upset. But you (Iraqis) say this every day ... If people are warring what kind of war is it?" he said.

Mubarak then pressed the Hamas-led Palestinian government to recognize past deals between the "Palestinian Authority [and Israel], so we can persuade Israel and the PA to sit at the negotiating table."

Chirac and Mubarak also said world leaders should find a "way to continue aid to Palestinians."

"It would be at the same time unfair and politically clumsy to make the Palestinian population pay the price (for voting for Hamas) ... by stopping aid," Chirac said. "It is one of the subjects I will discuss with Abu Mazen (Abbas) in a few days - that is, how to ensure that aid can be distributed to all Palestinians and under conditions which would be respectful of democracy."

Both presidents denounced the suicide attack that killed nine in Tel Aviv earlier this week. Mubarak said "the best way to avoid these violent acts would be for both sides to sit together at the negotiation table."

The two leaders inaugurated Thursday a new Franco-Egyptian university that will award diplomas valid in both countries to some 350 students each year.

Chirac insisted on the "strong obligation" to maintain a dialogue between cultures.

He said terrorism had to be fought in all fields, including though economic growth and cultural dialogue.

"Liberty and democracy are universal but must come from inside, develop in a national context and be introduced at a specific space," said Chirac, who like Mubarak has voiced reserves about U.S. President George W. Bush's "greater Middle East" project of enforcing democracy in the region.

Beirut 24-04-2006
The Daily Star

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