News Special Wire Confusion reigns over French PM’s words on Iran’s terror...

Confusion reigns over French PM’s words on Iran’s terror ties

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Iran Focus: London, Jul. 26 – Did he say Iran or did he say Iraq? No one appears to be sure as to which of the two neighbouring countries French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin referred to when he mentioned terrorist training camps in a joint press conference in London with his British counterpart Tony Blair,
but his phrase has aroused anger in Tehran, embarrassment in Paris, and some cheers in Washington, depending on the
way it was heard. Iran Focus

London, Jul. 26 – Did he say Iran or did he say Iraq?

No one appears to be sure as to which of the two neighbouring countries French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin referred to when he mentioned terrorist training camps in a joint press conference in London with his British counterpart Tony Blair, but his phrase has aroused anger in Tehran, embarrassment in Paris, and some cheers in Washington, depending on the way it was heard.

Answering a reporter’s question during the press conference at 10 Downing Street, Mr. de Villepin said, “We all have numbers of these Jihadists in our countries. These are individuals who have gone through training camps in Afghanistan, in Iran, in Bosnia and other training camps, and they have acquired experience, a capacity, an operational capacity, a logistics capacity that is quite significant”.

At least two seasoned French correspondents present at the press conference heard the French Prime Minister say “Iran” after Afghanistan, and their news organisations, Agence France Presse and Le Monde, quoted Mr. de Villepin in this way in their separate stories.

The highly respected Le Monde wrote on Tuesday in an article from its correspondent in London, Jean-Pierre Langellier, “In a joint press conference with Tony Blair, the Prime Minister suggested that bilateral exchange of ‘sensible information’ on Jihadists passing through camps in Afghanistan, Iran or Bosnia should be stepped up”.

Not so, says Iran’s official news agency, IRNA. In a dispatch from Paris, the news agency quoted unnamed spokesmen for the French Prime Minister’s office and the French Foreign Ministry as saying that Mr. de Villepin said “Iraq” after Afghanistan, not Iran.

The French Prime Minister has not yet pronounced himself on the sensitive issue. But this is not the first time that the similarity between the names of the two neighbouring countries becomes a diplomatic issue. Mr. de Villepin might take some comfort from this memorandum by Winston Churchill to his Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Bridges, on August 2, 1941: “In all correspondence, it would be more convenient to use the word ‘Persia’ instead of ‘Iran’, as otherwise dangerous mistakes may easily occur through the similarity of Iran and Iraq”.

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