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Friday, April 27, 2007

France to pullout troops from Afghanistan

PARIS - France does not plan to stay in Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said Friday, hours before a deadline for a pullout of French troops in exchange for the release of two hostages.

There is no plan to continue occupying a country in the long term,’ said Douste-Blazy. ‘It goes against France’s values of respect for sovereignty, national independence and territorial integrity.’

France has contributed 1,000 men to the NATO-led force in Afghanistan, as well as Rafale fighter jets in support of the international force battling a Taleban insurrection.

Taleban militants are holding two aid workers for the French nongovernment organisation Terre d’Enfance (A World For Our Children), who went missing on April 3 with three of their Afghan staff.

The deadline for Taleban demands to be met in exchange for the release of two French hostages will expire Saturday, not Friday as originally thought, Taleban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi told AFP.

Unless its demands are met, the Taleban, which has beheaded several of its captives, has said ‘the position of Islamic Emirate (the Taleban) about foreign prisoners... (will) soon be applied.’

‘We are doing everything in Kabul and Paris to being them home soon,’ Douste-Blazy said, adding that he had ‘taken note’ of a Taleban statement on Thursday saying the hostages were in good health.

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