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France, India discuss security and terrorism

NEW DELHI, June 17: France and India discussed issues related to terrorism and security as French Ambassador Jerome Bonnafont met Union Home Minister P Chidambaram in New Delhi on Wednesday.

"Issues concerning both the countries were discussed. We have joined hands against terrorism and that is a very important area of cooperation," French Ambassador to India, Jerome Bonnafont, told after meeting Chidambaram at his North Block office.

"We have cooperation in this (terrorism and security related issue) respect, which we are moving forward," he said, when asked about the issues and topics that arose during their 15-minute meeting.

Bonnafont described the meeting as a "very good" one.

Carla to sing on Mandela's birthday

LONDON, June 17: French first lady Carla Bruni will lend her voice at the upcoming Nelson Mandela Day tribute in New York.

Bruni will sing a duet with pop star Dave Stwart, who is the man behind the first Mandela Day concert in South Africa, reports

Celebrities like Aretha Franklin, Queen Latifah, Cyndi Lauper, Jesse McCartney, Josh Groban and Wyclef Jean will also appear at the former South African president's birthday tribute - to be held July 18 at Madison Square Garden.

Dalai Lama hits out at China 'death sentence' on Tibet

PARIS, June 8: The Dalai Lama said on Saturday that China has imposed a "death sentence" on Tibet as he arrived in Paris for a visit that China has strongly opposed.

The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader is to be named an honorary citizen of the French capital despite warnings from the Chinese government that his arrival will harm relations with France.

On his arrival in Paris, the Dalai Lama criticised China about events in Tibet since protests were staged last year.

"Since March 2008 I have the feeling that a very old nation and its heritage and culture have received a death sentence," he told reporters at Paris airport.

"The Chinese government makes a hard line policy, but the Chinese people are ignorant of the situation. The international community must go there to investigate, without restrictions," he added.

The Dalai Lama, 73, is to be made an honorary citizen of Paris on Sunday.

He is also to meet pro-Tibetan French lawmakers, members of the Chinese and Tibetan community in France and address a gathering at a Paris sports stadium.

Officials have said it is a coincidence that the Dalai Lama is in France at the same time as US President Barack Obama and that there are no plans for the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader to meet top political representatives.

Sarkozy, Wen send their wishes to Indian PM

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, May 22: Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have congratulated Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his second term in office.

President Sarkozy invited Prime Minister Singh to be the chief guest on the occasion of French National Day on July 14.

In his congratulatory message, Premier Wen said: "I wish to extend, on behalf of the Chinese people and in my own name, to Your Excellency warm congratulations and best wishes."

He said that India-China strategic and cooperative partnership had achieved "all-around rapid progress and reached unprecedented heights" over the last five years, and he appreciated Prime Minister Singh’s contributions to the growth of bilateral relations.

"The Chinese Government attaches great importance to the China-India relations. I am ready to work closely with Your Excellency to push forward the long-term stable development of China-India Strategic and Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity," Mr Wen added.

Through the elections which were recently concluded and which constitute a remarkable testimony to their attachment to democracy, President Sarkozy said “the Indian people have chosen to repose once again their trust in the representatives of the Congress Party and the alliance that it leads. In this I discern a deep tribute to the action that you have undertaken at the helm of the Government of India since 2004.”

President Sarkozy, in turn, said: "I am delighted to be able to pursue and intensify with you the strategic partnership that our two countries maintain today. You know that I have chosen to make India a privileged partner of France and, in future, I intend to enhance this major orientation of the foreign policy I have defined."

Pakistan must cooperate fully with Mumbai probe, says France

NEW DELHI, Jan 17: Declaring itself in “total solidarity” with India over the November 26-29 Mumbai terrorist attacks, France has called on Pakistan to cooperate fully with the Indian side to ensure those responsible for the crime are punished.

Speaking to reporters on Saturday at the end of his visit for the 20th Indo-French Strategic Dialogue, Jean-David Levitte, Diplomatic Adviser of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, said that Paris had heard President Asif Ali Zardari’s words promising cooperation with India.

But it was now up to “all agencies of the Pakistani state” to implement those commitments, he stressed.

Asked whether he agreed with the Indian government’s claim that some official agencies in Pakistan must have been involved in the Mumbai incident, Mr. Levitte said he had been through the dossier India had prepared and handed over to France. “To my knowledge, the dossier doesn’t say that any official agency of Pakistan was involved.”

He added that he wished to complement and pay tribute to those Indian officials who had assembled the dossier. “As far as the Government of France is concerned, it is totally credible. This is also the judgment of our intelligence agencies,” he said. “What we want from Pakistan is full cooperation. Total cooperation… This is the least that we as a democracy and a friend of India can ask.”

France was also calling on India to show “restraint” and resume the composite dialogue process with Pakistan “at the appropriate moment,” Mr. Levitte said. Countries cannot choose their neighbours, he added, “so we encouraged the resumption of dialogue, especially since this process had made considerable progress in recent years.”

But for that to happen, he stressed, “there is need for full cooperation by Pakistan and punishment by law of those who have done [the Mumbai terrorist attacks].”

Levitte refused to get drawn in to the question of where the men should be tried. “It is not for me to tell you whether they should be extradited or not,” he said. “What we say is that justice must be delivered. And that those who planned this act must be punished by law.”

Levitte said he had had very constructive discussions with both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his counterpart, National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan.

Apart from Mumbai and the question of Pakistan, the two sides touched on the Indo-French defence partnership, civil nuclear cooperation and key global issues like the financial crisis, climate change and the conflict in West Asia.

He hailed the recent agreement Areva had struck with NPCIL for the supply of 30 tonnes of uranium and said France looked forward to the formal commencement of work on the construction of nuclear power plants in India.

On France’s bid to supply the Rafale for the IAF’s forthcoming order for 126 multi-role combat aircraft, Mr. Levitte said Paris was participating in the competition alongside rivals from the United States, Russia and Europe. “We have to accept the rules of the competition,” he said, adding, “provided these are the same for everybody.”



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