PARIS (Aug. 28)
Prime Minister Jacques Chirac has issued a new warning that France will pull its soldiers out of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) unless new guarantees for their safety are given by the United Nations.
Chirac, speaking Tuesday to a youth group of his conservative Rally for the Republic Party (RPR), urged the UN to “redefine the objective of its forces in the Middle East. Should this not be done, it would be absurd to maintain troops there under current conditions, whatever their nationality, particularly those from France.”
The Prime Minister’s comments echoed a similar statement last week by Foreign Minister Jean-Bernard Raimond. Government concern over the participation of more than 1,000 French troops in UNIFIL stem from attacks on their positions by Shiite militia that have left some two dozen French soldiers injured in recent weeks.
Chirac praised the courage of the French soldiers, but said the UN was “not up to the responsibilities it claims to assume. If things continue in this way, they will wind up as hostages,” he told his youthful audience.
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