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'Not our objective to kill Gaddafi’, French foreign minister insists

Text by Sophie PILGRIM

Latest update : 2011-05-04

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé told FRANCE 24 Wednesday that it was never France’s objective to kill Gaddafi or his family, describing the death of the leader’s son as "collateral damage", while ruling out foreign military intervention in Syria.

Almost two months after the international coalition comprising French forces began bombarding Gaddafi military targets in Libya, FRANCE 24 asked French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé how his government views the conflict now, and whether Osama bin Laden’s death will affect France’s position in the region.

On Libya
 
“It’s perfectly clear that it is not our objective to kill Gaddafi, Juppé insisted. “We are carrying out strikes with the aim of destabilising Gaddafi's military capabilities (…). We will continue with the strikes until we can neutralise these capabilities.”
 
Juppé insisted that the international military intervention was only “helping” the rebels’ National Transitional Council rather than fighting the battle for them. “Libyans themselves must take charge of their destiny. We are just there to help, to reinforce the National Transitional Council and give them the means to defend themselves against Gaddafi’s forces” he said.
 
When asked whether international forces had underestimated Gaddafi’s military strength before intervening, Juppé evaded the question, but suprisingly cited Afghanistan (another conflict in which France has been embroiled for longer than expected). He insisted that France would not become “bogged down” in Libya however, saying "I hope that it will last no longer than a few weeks, a few months at the most.”
 
Questioned about the killing of one of Gaddafi’s sons during a NATO airstrike, Juppé described the incident as “collateral damage”.
 
On Syria
 
Juppé ruled out a 1973 Security Council resolution for Syria like that in Libya, initially saying that “France doesn’t want to multiply its military interventions”. He then went on to explain that it would be almost impossible to obtain such a vote from the necessary nine members of the Security Council. While France and others had “managed to convince” China and Russia on Libya, this time the two countries may veto the vote, he said. Plus, Lebanon (critical because it’s an Arab state), which voted for intervention in Libya, looks unlikely to do the same for Syria.
 
He insisted, however, that France was pushing for sanctions against President Bashar al Assad.
 
On Osama bin Laden’s death
 
Asked if France’s objective had changed concerning its forces in Afghanistan following Osama bin Laden’s death, Juppé said that French soldiers were never sent to Afghanistan to get rid of bin Laden. “They were there, and still are, to help the Afghan government to assure democracy. Our objective has not changed.”
 
He said that the 2014 target date for troop withdrawal from the country had not changed either.
 
Juppé quickly dashed the hopes of those expecting improved negotiations concerning several French hostages currently being held in north Africa by al Qaeda’s sister branch, Al Qaeda in the Maghreb. “AQIM,” he explained, “has a certain level of autonomy from al Qaeda” hinting that bin Laden’s death would be unlikely to affect their chances of release.

Date created : 2011-05-04

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