Posts Tagged ‘Michèle Alliot-Marie’

New French Foreign Minister moves quickly to rectify Sarkozy’s blunders

February 28, 2011
Michèle Alliot-Marie

Alliot-Marie: Image via Wikipedia

Sarkozy has always given me the impression of being rather condescending with former colonies and of running a foreign policy based almost entirely on short-term economic benefit. The French Government – as most others – has been caught completely unprepared by the upheavals in North Africa and the Middle East. But Sarkozy and his ministers have been particularly inept with Tunisia and Egypt and to some extent with Morocco and Libya.

Foreign Minister Michelle Alliot-Marie was stupid enough not only to accept air travel and holidays from Ben Ali’s friends but also to actually offer French support for the Tunisian security services when the demonstrations first began. Alliot-Marie’s partner, Patrick Ollier is also accused of using his close relationship with Muammar Gaddafi to secure French arms deals with Libya. He remains in the cabinet in charge of parliamentary affairs but she has now been sacked by Sarkozy. The Prime Minister, Francois Fillon who also accepted free holidays paid for by Mubarak remains in place.

Sarkozy also found another scapegoat in Pierre Menat the Ambassador in Tunis and sacked him as well. His replacement – the brash and arrogant Boris Boillon – then went and endeared himself to the Tunisians by immediately throwing a tantrum and calling the Tunisian press “stupid” at a press briefing on his arrival. Naturally the video found its way to You Tube ( 2:40 into the video). The Tunisians demanded his removal and he was forced to apologise.

“I say I am sorry, I regret my words, I was stupid,” Ambassador Boris Boillon said over state television. “I ask for the forgiveness of all Tunisians.” Tunisians are deeply suspicious of former colonial ruler France’s role in supporting Ben Ali, who ran the North African country repressively for more than 20 years.

Sarkozy is known for not caring much for diplomats while diplomats consider him impulsive and an amateur:

Mr Sarkozy has been criticised for several years over the way his government has run foreign policy. Critics accuse him of riding roughshod over foreign service chiefs at the Quai d’Orsay while keeping key decisions in the hands of his Chief of Staff Claude Gueant.

Last week an open letter from a group of diplomats, published in the newspaper Le Monde, slammed the “amateurism” and “impulsiveness” of Mr Sarkozy’s policy. Former ambassador Jean-Christophe Rufin criticised the “damage” done to France’s image. “Contrary to the announcements trumpeted for the past three years, Europe is powerless, Africa escapes us, the Mediterranean will not talk to us, China has tamed us and Washington ignores us!” wrote the diplomats.

The letter was seen as a response to Mr Sarkozy’s claims that his ambassadors in Arab capitals had failed to foresee the North African unrest.

It is now the more sober Alain Juppe, the former French prime minister, who will be given the job of restoring France’s diplomatic credibility as the country’s new foreign minister. He will seek to ensure France takes the right approach to the pro-democracy movement.

And, significantly, Mr Sarkozy is moving Claude Gueant, his wing-man for years and the driver of his foreign policy, to be interior minister – a move seen as a concession to Alain Juppe, who will want to run foreign affairs his way.

The new Foreign Minister Alain Juppe is now moving fast to try and rectify a string of blunders and to try and restore some cohesion to French foreign policy.

Now comes a French move to win hearts and minds in the new Libya: the first consignment of humanitarian aid. The two planes France sent to the eastern city of Benghazi carried doctors, nurses, medicine and medical equipment to ease the pressure on hospitals in the east of Libya.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon hailed “the beginning of a massive operation of humanitarian support for the populations of the liberated territories. And you will have seen that France was in the forefront of the decisions taken to sanction Col Gaddafi,” he said. “We were the ones who called on the European Council to adopt a joint position on this matter.”

The French moves are a start and almost forced on them since  the writing is already on the wall. Whether Alain Juppe will be able to inject a measure of principle into French foreign policy and lift it up from the level of the pig-trough remains to be seen.

But with Sarkozy’s approval ratings at less than 30% and a difficult presidential election coming up in 2012, his amateurish impulsiveness and his quest for short-term gains may prevent foreign policy from being about anything else.

Political earthquake spreading and claims Tunisian PM and French Foreign Minister

February 27, 2011

The earthquakes that are ripping across the political foundations of North Africa and the Middle East are producing an uncharted landscape which is still changing everyday. The after-shocks continue in Tunisia where it all started and new shocks were felt in Oman today. In Libya, Gaddafi is increasingly isolated and further shocks will no doubt be felt. The speed of propagation is stunning and beyond anything predicted by “domino theories” and the directions of movement are quite unpredictable. That Egypt’s Mubarak would fall in 18 days is hard to believe. That his departure did not produce a long period of chaos is even more remarkable. That Saudi Arabia could be vulnerable at all seems ridiculous on the surface but the events in Bahrain and today in Oman suggest that the sand under the House of Saud is highly unstable and could be susceptible to very sudden shifts.

The consequences will be felt far outside the immediate region and not least in the old colonial powers of France and Italy and the UK. All the so-called defenders of freedom and democracy who -on the grounds of stability – continued to support the string of repressive dictators will have to devise new policies. The new found revolt against the corruption in North Africa and the Arabian peninsula will create new stresses in Europe and the US where the “establishments” have all been complicit in the corrupt practices and especially in the sale of defence equipment and in the extraction and refining of oil. How to continue supporting absolute monarchs and dictators in some countries while supporting the establishment of democratic institutions in others is going to be particularly challenging for the US.

French Foreign Minister Alliot-Marie quits over Tunisia

Embattled French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie has announced her resignation after weeks of criticism over her contacts with the former Tunisian regime. But in announcing her resignation, she said she had committed no wrongdoing.

A veteran conservative politician and cabinet minister, she had been in her new job for just three months. She was heavily criticised for initially offering French help to quell the uprising in Tunisia. Subsequent revelations about her and her family’s links to the regime of former President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, and the fact that she had taken a Christmas holiday in Tunisia during the uprising made her position increasingly untenable.

Tunisians celebrate prime minister’s ouster

Less than a minute after Tunisian Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi resigned Sunday in a speech on national television, the massive crowd filling this city’s Casbah Square suddenly halted the angry chants that had continued around the clock for days. There was silence, and then cheers, chants and circles of ecstatic dancing.

For the second time in as many months, the people of Tunisia had toppled their government, and now their chant changed to “the act is done, the rest is yet to come.”

Ghannouchi, 69, quit because he had been unable to overcome his past as part of fallen president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s government, and the peaceful demonstrations that forced Ben Ali out had turned violent and police seemed unable to control the crowds, according to activists in several newly formed political parties.

Libya protesters control Zawiyah

Forces loyal to the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi have surrounded the city of Zawiyah, where anti-government protesters are bracing for an attack. Men opposed to Gaddafi were patrolling the streets of the city 50km from the capital on Sunday, saying they had seized weapons and even tanks which they would use to defend themselves.

Ezeldina, a Zawiyah resident, told Al Jazeera that people in the city had raided some military camps.

“We are expecting an attack at any moment,” he said. “We are forming rotating watchgroups, guarding the neighbourhood.” Police stations and government offices inside the city have been torched and anti-Gaddafi graffiti painted of walls. Hundreds of protesters in the city centre chanted “Gaddafi Out”. Some stood on top of a captured tank, while others crowded around an anti-aircraft gun. Women stood on top of buildings cheering on the men in the crowd below.

An effigy of Gaddafi hung from a light pole in the main square.

A group of foreign journalists were driven to Zawiyah by Libyan authorities on Sunday to show that forces loyal to Gaddafi still held the town. But once there, it was evident that the protesters were in control.

Protests turn violent in Oman port

Thousands of Omani youths confronted police in the industrial port of Sohar on Sunday after witnesses reported that two protesters had been killed in clashes with the security forces. The small Gulf state, a close ally of the UK, is the latest country to be rocked by the wave of youth-driven democracy movements that have spread through the region since the fall of the Tunisian and Egyptian leaders.

Unprecedented unrest in northern Oman marks an escalation of civil protest in the oil-rich Gulf, sparking fears of further contagion in a region whose oil reserves are vital to the global economy.

The flare-up follows rising tensions in Bahrain, where pro-democracy protests have shaken the country for the past two weeks, prompting other states such as Saudi Arabia to offer citizens billions of dollars worth of benefits in an attempt to ward off unrest.

Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said, Oman’s ruler, reshuffled the cabinet at the weekend. But this failed to placate the protesters in central Sohar. “We want all these ministers to go,” said one demonstrator. “They are thieves.”

Protest marches fill Bahrain capital as pressure mounts on rulers

Thousands of protesters streamed through Bahrain’s diplomatic area and other sites Sunday, chanting against the country’s king and rejecting his appeals for talks to end the tiny Gulf nation’s nearly two-week-old crisis.

At least three processions paralyzed parts of the capital, Manama, and appeared to reflect a growing defiance of calls by Bahrain’s rulers to hold talks to ease the increasingly bitter showdown in the strategic island nation, home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

“No dialogue until the regime is gone,” marchers chanted as they moved through the highly protected zone of embassies and diplomatic compounds. No violence was reported.

Other marchers shouted slogans to oust Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and plastered fences with flyers denouncing security forces for attacks that have killed seven people since the first protests Feb. 14 inspired by revolts in Tunisia and Egypt.


The abuse of privilege: French Ministers and their “perks”

February 16, 2011
File:Michèle Alliot-Marie.JPG

Michèle Alliot-Marie: image wikipedia

That corruption and ethics do not place very high in the French scale of values is at least very true for Government ministers. Exploiting the privileges of position is a tradition which is not only maintained but is staunchly defended. Not only did the French Prime Minister have an all expenses paid holiday at the expense of Mubarak (before he left) including the use of Mabarak’s plane, but the Foreign Minister also happily flew around in the plane of a friend of the deposed Tunisian dictator. Now it is also revealed that her parents (in their nineties) have made lucrative  real estate deals with one of the dictator’s Tunisian associates.

If nothing else their choice of benefactors brings their judgements into question. And the French Foreign Minister actually being in Tunisia during the protests does not say much for the the intelligence or anticipation of her staff. She even spoke to Ben Ali on the phone during her vacation!!!!!! No doubt she wished him Bon Voyage.

Perhaps the best way to predict when the next Middle East dictator will topple is to study who is treating a French Minister to a holiday.

File:UMP regional elections Paris 2010-01-21 n13.jpg

François Fillon: image wikipedia

The BBC reports:

French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie has defended a property deal between her parents and an associate of the ousted Tunisian president. ….. Earlier Ms Alliot-Marie was criticised for having flown twice on a jet owned by Aziz Miled, who was close to ex-president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. She was on holiday in Tunisia during anti-government protests in December. ….

Speaking on Wednesday on the French radio station Europe 1, her father Bernard Marie said Aziz Miled was a long-standing personal friend and “my wife and I are the only ones involved” in the business deal. Le Canard Enchaine reported that Ms Alliot-Marie’s parents, both in their 90s, already owned part of a property company, SCI Ikram, and bought the rest of the shares from Mr Miled while in Tunisia with their daughter. An aide to Ms Alliot-Marie said the minister had had “a brief telephone conversation” with Mr Ben Ali during her holiday. The aide did not elaborate further.

Meanwhile, the French government expressed its “total support” for Ms Alliot-Marie on Wednesday.

Last week French President Nicolas Sarkozy told his government to holiday at home in future. He was responding to the revelations about Ms Alliot-Marie and Prime Minister Francois Fillon, who was criticised for having enjoyed hospitality in Egypt provided by former President Hosni Mubarak. Mr Fillon admitted he took a new year break in Egypt, paid for by Mr Mubarak. The prime minister and his family were given lodgings, used an Egyptian plane for an internal flight and took a boat trip on the Nile, all at Egyptian expense.

Neither has offered to repay the costs of their holidays to the people of Egypt or of Tunisia.


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