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Afghanistan, G20 presidency top Sarkozy's foreign policy agenda

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2010-08-26

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has unveiled an ambitious agenda for France’s forthcoming G20 presidency and ruled out an early exit from Afghanistan in a speech detailing his foreign policy priorities for the coming year.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy outlined his foreign policy objectives in a traditional post-holiday speech to French ambassadors on Wednesday.

Sarkozy vowed to display "action and ambition" when he takes the helm of the G20 and G8 groups later this year.

The French president proposed to shake up global governance, notably by setting up a G20 "secretariat" with a role in development and climate measures.

The G20, which includes developing nations, emerged in the fallout of the 2008 financial crisis as a powerful new voice to challenge the traditional economic heavyweights of the G8.

Sarkozy called for experts to meet in China to discuss measures to “to avoid excessive volatility of currencies”, blamed for aggravating the effects of economic troubles, as well as action to tame turbulence on raw materials and energy markets.

The China meeting should consider ways "to reinforce our crisis-management mechanisms" and "better coordinate our economic and monetary policies," he said

Sarkozy also urged efforts to limit volatility in commodity prices, pointing to2008 riots in Haiti and Africa over food shortages. "Nobody has done anything'' since then to address such problems, he deplored.

French forces in Afghanistan 'as long as is necessary'

The French president also took the opportunity to defend the presence of French troops in Afghanistan at a time of growing public unease about the scope of the mission and its human costs.

Sarkozy said French forces would remain in the country for as long as they are needed.

"France will remain engaged in Afghanistan, with its allies, for as long as is necessary and for as long as the Afghan people wish," he said.

The French president said the "cause of peace cannot be subject to artificial calendars and the mood of the media."

France's contingent is part of the US-led NATO coalition battling the Taliban and other rebel groups. The focus of French troops is on training Afghan security forces so that they may eventually take over.

Two French soldiers were killed this week and Sarkozy faces mounting calls for France's 3,750 troops to begin withdrawing from a conflict that has cost 47 French lives and shows no sign of coming to an end.

US President Barack Obama has said US troop numbers will begin to come down from next year, but his commanders on the ground have cautioned that withdrawal will be slow and subject to conditions on the battlefield.

Date created : 2010-08-26


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