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France denies paying ransom, freed journalists on way home
www.chinaview.cn 2004-12-22 21:17:28

French President Jacques Chirac makes a speech aired by the LCI television in Paris, December 22, 2004. Chirac said the two French journalists kidnapped in Iraq have been released and are on their way back to Paris. (Xinhua/AFP)

French President Jacques Chirac makes a speech aired by the LCI television in Paris, December 22, 2004. Chirac said the two French journalists kidnapped in Iraq have been released and are on their way back to Paris. (Xinhua/AFP)

    PARIS, Dec. 22 (Xinhuanet) -- French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin is understood to have told French lawmakers Wednesday that France paid no ransom for the release of two French journalists kidnapped in Iraq.

    According to Communist Party senator Nicole Borvo, Raffarin told a meeting at his residence in Matignon that there was neither a demand for nor payment of a ransom.

    "He was very clear. We can consider this to be the word of the prime minister," said Borvo.

    Christian Chesnot, 37, of Radio France Internationale and Georges Malbrunot, 41, of Le Figaro, were kidnapped on Aug. 20 south of Baghdad by a group calling itself the "Islamic Army of Iraq."

    Paris had rejected the group's demand that a headscarf ban be revoked in French public schools.

    They were released "because they were proven not to have spied for US forces", the Arabic language Al-Jazeera satellite TV said, quoting a statement from the Islamic group.

    The release was also instigated by appeals and demands from Islamic institutions, in appreciation of the French government's stand on the Iraq issue and because of the two journalists' standson the Palestinian cause, the statement said.

    The two men were freed on Tuesday and left Baghdad Wednesday morning en route to Paris with a stopover in Cyprus. Enditem

    French determined to fight terrorism: Chirac

    PARIS, Dec. 22 (Xinhuanet) -- French President Jacques Chirac on Wednesday said that France will continue to be iron-willed to oppose all forms of terrorism, hailing the release of two French journalists held hostage in Iraq since August 20.

    "We owe their liberation to the mobilization and the solidarityof all the French people, to whom I want to pay homage," Chirac said in a speech aired by French LCI television.

    "We owe it to the force with which the nation is gathering together, in its diversity, to affirm its cohesion, its solidarityand its values. We owe it to the responsible and tenacious action of the government and the whole services that are mobilized with devotion and efficiency," he added.

    He also expressed France's iron-willed determination to fight terrorism.

    "United around its values and strong in its unity, France will continue to be iron-willed to oppose all forms of terrorism. Everywhere, it will continue to defend human rights, support the freedom of people and work tirelessly for peace, democracy and solidarity," Chirac said.

    The French president also thanked all public authorities, all political and religious officials in France as in the rest of the world, who, in an exceptional surge of solidarity, brought their cooperation and support to gain the release of the two French journalists.

    The two journalists, Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, "are now on their way to Paris," he said.

    According to French presidential Elysee palace, the two journalists had left Wednesday morning Baghdad and will arrive around 1700 GMT at the Villacoublay military air base in the southwester suburb of Paris after a stopover in Cyprus, where theywould be picked up by French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier and some of their relatives.

    Chirac broke off his vacation started Monday in Morocco when heheard of the release on Tuesday and he was to welcome the two journalists in the Villacoublay air base late Wednesday in person,his office said.

    The release came four months after Christian Chesnot of Radio France Internationale and Georges Malbrunot of Le Figaro newspaperwere kidnapped on Aug. 20 by a group calling itself the "Islamic Army of Iraq" when heading to the southern Iraqi city of Najaf, together with their Arab driver.

    France later dismissed the demand of the group to revoke the headscarf ban in public schools.

    They were released "because they were proven not to spy for US forces, in response to appeals and demands from Islamic institutions and bodies, and in appreciation of the French government's stand on the Iraq issue and the two journalists' stand on the Palestinian cause," the Arab-language Al-Jazeera satellite TV quoted the Islamic group as saying in a statement. Enditem

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