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PRESS CONFERENCE BY PRESIDENT OF FRANCE

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

25 September 2007

The President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, expressed deep concern today at developments in Myanmar, urging the Government not to resort to force against the demonstrators, at a press conference at United Nations Headquarters following his address this morning to the opening of the General Assembly’s general debate.

Expressing deep concern about the situation in Myanmar, the French President appealed for “peaceful, spontaneous demonstrations” -- which were expressing “just, political and social concerns” -- not to be repressed by force in any way. Tomorrow, when he would receive a Myanmar delegation in exile at the Élysée Palace, he would express France’s support of them. [The President delivered his press conference in French. Official interpretation was available in English].

Asked for a reaction to United States President George W. Bush’s announcement before the General Assembly of sanctions against Myanmar, Mr. Sarkozy said, “Universal values, the right of peoples to self-determination, and human rights –- there won’t be peace without these things…” Later, he recalled that the European Union had imposed its own sanctions on Myanmar.

Turning to the Middle East, Mr. Sarkozy, who was accompanied at the press conference by French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner described the talks he had yesterday with Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority. “For Mr. Kouchner and I, this is a man who deserves respect and consideration,” he said. “I think he is a brave man, he is a man who is reasonable, and the position of France, frequently expressed by Mr. Kouchner and by myself, is one of support.”

Mr. Sarkozy said that Mr. Abbas had spoken “in considerable detail” about discussions he had had with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. He added: “I have the impression that they talked about important subjects in an open, frank way, but that (their talks) were not conclusive”. It was because everything was going so poorly vis-à-vis the Middle East peace process that there now existed an opportunity to “do things better”. “If you look at the situation as it stands, the Palestinian President has the advantage, if he takes the initiative, to unify the Palestinian people,” Mr. Sarkozy said.

It would be advantageous for Prime Minister Olmert to take the initiative and strengthen his credibility and legitimacy in Israel, he continued. The United States President could push for an agreement, as he was nearing the end of his second term. “Everyone can take the risk, the risk of success… I don’t see what the point would be to wait,” he urged.

Questioned about France’s position on Lebanon, where presidential elections had been postponed, Mr. Sarkozy said that France favoured a sovereign, independent Lebanon, adding, “We are going to be alongside Lebanon and all components of Lebanese society”. He urged all the communities in Lebanon to talk with each other, stressing that the assassination of elected politicians in that country was becoming “unbearable, intolerable”. France would do everything possible to see to it that the perpetrators of those crimes were held accountable. “Masks have to fall,” he stated.

Turning to Iran, he emphasized the “absolute need” to ensure that proliferation was avoided. He marvelled that the United Nations General Assembly provided a rostrum from which to say – with the Iranian President in the chamber – that Iran’s nuclear programme was unacceptable. He did not personally know if the Iranian President was on hand when he delivered his address, but “everyone is obliged to listen to everyone else”. He added that it was “extremely important” to strengthen the United Nations and multilateral process.

On the future status of Kosovo, he said that independence for Kosovo was “inevitable,” that the Kosovo question was a European one on which Europe had to be “united”. There was “no intention” to humiliate either Russia or Serbia with the issue, he added.

As for United Nations reform, he said, “We are in the twenty-first century and we cannot tackle the issues of the twenty-first century with an institution that is stuck in the twentieth century”. Countries such as Mexico, Brazil, South Africa and India deserved more than an invitation “to just one lunch”. “Everyone knows that the Security Council cannot remain as it is; it no longer corresponds with global challenges. Things need to change. Things need to move.” He lamented the fact that no country from Africa or South America was on the Security Council, nor was India a permanent member. “Can the status quo continue?” he asked, adding that he thought France had injected “a note of common sense” into the debate.

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For information media • not an official record



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