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IN THE PRESS

An overview of the stories making the French and international newspaper headlines. From Monday to Friday live at 7.20 am and 9.20 am Paris time.

Latest update : 2011-01-11

"War on France"

French papers are leading on the killing of two kidnapped French nationals during a failed rescue attempt in Niger on Saturday. That’s the focus of the French Press Review for Monday, 10th January 2011.

The papers are largely supportive of the rescue bid for Antoine de Léocourt and Vincent Delory. The two French hostages were kidnapped in the Niger capital Niamey on Friday evening and were victims in a failed search and rescue operation on Saturday. Liberation leads on what it says is a declaration of “War on France” (“La guerre à la France”). It says the killing of the two French nationals confirms the French are the main target of terrorists in the Sahel region and says blame should not fall on the people who tried to rescue the two men but on the killers. Libération’s editorial, by Laurent Joffrin, headlined “Réalités”, says President Nicolas Sarkozy faces a “tragic dilemma”. Joffrin argues: “Negotiations are hazardous, even vain with enemies who are bent on the worst and who have unrealistic demands”.

Le Figaro also looks at the execution of the two hostages. It headlines that France is on the front line of the terrorist threat. The paper quotes President Nicolas Sarkozy saying that he would “never be dictated to by terrorists or terrorism”. Le Figaro’s editorial, by Pierre Rousselin, says that France can but feel “powerless”. However, one approach could be to build ties with Niger and Mali so they have the resources available to tackle security issues.

The Catholic daily La Croix, too, is leading on the Niger killings saying France is a target. Its editorial, by Francois Ernenwein, suggests that the deaths will give renewed vigour to national unity within France against terrorism. It says that right and left agree that the explosive mix of Islamic fundamentalism and banditry has to be defeated.

While most papers support the rescue bid over the weekend, there is some criticism. L’Echo, a paper published in the west of France, headlines: “Painful Fiasco”. It reminds its readers that this was the second time a military operation has failed to rescue hostages in the Sahel. The previous one – last July – ended with the death of 78-year-old French aid worker Michel Germaneau.

L’Humanité, the far left paper, also uses the word “fiasco”. It headlines: “Les raisons d’un fiasco militaire”. The editorial writer in the paper, Jean-Emmanuel Ducoin, asks whether it was “legitimate” and “necessary” for French special forces to take part in the rescue bid. He says one taboo has be addressed, which is “whether French foreign policy in parts of Africa and in Afghanistan is partly responsible for the threats against France”.

France Soir reports that the two French men who were killed had been friends all their lives. They were both born 25 years ago in the town of Linselles in north-east France. Antoine de Léocour and Vincent Delory are shown in a photo when they were at school. Delory was going to be the best man at de Léocour’s wedding in Niamey in Niger.

By Nicholas RUSHWORTH

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