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Diplomacy can't be dictated only by human rights, says Kouchner

Video by Armen GEORGIAN

Latest update : 2008-12-13

On the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told French daily Le Parisien that France's foreign policy cannot be guided only by human rights considerations.

'When France talks human rights, does anybody listen?' - our Observers ask the question.


Reuters - France should not let human rights dictate its foreign policy, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Tuesday, belying his past as a rights campaigner.

Kouchner also said he had made a mistake asking French President Nicolas Sarkozy to create a secretary of state for human rights, dealing a sharp blow to the woman who holds the job, Rama Yade.

In an interview published on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Kouchner told Le Parisien newspaper it was not always possible to rule in accordance with the highest values.

"One cannot decide about foreign policy thinking only about human rights. Leading a country obviously distances one from a certain otherworldliness," said Kouchner, who was co-founder of medical agency Medecins Sans Frontieres and has been at the forefront of numerous rights campaigns over the decades.

Many of his colleagues reacted with dismay when he agreed to join Sarkozy's cabinet last year and some have accused him since of not taking a strong enough stance over moral issues.

The government has repeatedly run into difficulties over rights, drawing fire for hosting controversial leaders in Paris, such as Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, and for sending mixed signals over China's clampdown on ethnic Tibetans.

When Kouchner took office, he asked Sarkozy to be flanked by a secretary of state for human rights and the post was given to the little-known Yade, who has occasionally run into trouble by appearing to criticise policy decisions.

"I think I was wrong to ask for a secretary of state for human rights," Kouchner said, adding: "Rama Yade has done as well as she could, and with talent."

French newspapers have reported that Sarkozy is annoyed with Yade for refusing to represent his UMP party in next year's European parliamentary elections, and Kouchner's public putdown suggests she has fallen from grace.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the United Nations at a ceremony in Paris in 1948. France has always felt a special affinity with the document and sees itself in many ways as the home of human rights.

Date created : 2008-12-10