France calls on Libyan leader to step down

French president Nicolas Sarkozy has stated during a news conference that Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi “must leave,” calling the leader to step down. His comments were made during a press conference with the Turkish president Abdullah Gül in Ankara. Sarkozy also stated that military action to remove Gaddafi isn’t ruled out.

“Our stance is clear. Mr Gaddafi must go. The systematic violence against the Libyan people is unacceptable and will be the subject of investigations and sanctions. Regarding a military intervention … France would consider any initiative of this type with extreme caution and reserve,” said Sarkozy. The United Kingdom is also calling for an arms embargo along with an investigation into war crimes be conducted against Gaddafi.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Sarkozy’s call on Gaddafi to step down comes after violence on Friday alone has left at least five people dead in Tripoli, the capitol of Libya, when security personnel fired on demonstrators. At least 500 people are suspected to have been killed in Tripoli with over 2,000 injured. Gunshots were heard in several parts of the city on Friday. Navi Pillay, head of the human rights division of the United Nations says thousands in Libya could have been killed since the uprising began. Human Rights Watch puts the death toll at 300.

“We think this needs to be brought to the International Criminal Court. We also think that people who still cooperate with Gadhafi should be punished,” added Sarkozy.

Reports say security forces loyal to Gaddafi have used rocket propelled grenades, snipers, anti aircraft guns and foreign mercenaries to repel protesters. Gaddafi blames Osama bin laden and people on hallucinogenic drugs for the mass protests in the country. “(The protesters’) ages are 17. They give them pills at night, they put hallucinatory pills in their drinks, their milk, their coffee, their Nescafe,” he said on Thursday.

In a speech that aired on Libyan State TV today, Gaddafi said to supporters in Green Square in Tripoli, “We can defeat any aggression if necessary and arm the people. Prepare to defend the nation and defend the oil. [We can] retaliate against them [the opposition]. You, the youth, be comfortable… dance, sing, stay up all night.”

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France to invest Euro 10 billion in India by 2012

French companies are committed to invest euro 10 billion (USD 13.37 bn) in India by 2012, the country’s Minister of Economy and Finance Christine Lagarde said today.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy

“This is not just a figure (Euro 10 billion). It is the commitment by French companies between 2008-2012,” Lagarde said while addressing India-France Business Forum at Ficci (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry).

Adding that everything (business) worked on ‘give and take’ principle, she said, India has to reciprocate its (France’s) interests in the country. She emphasised on opening up sectors like insurance and retail, particularly, multi-brand retail, so that French companies can invest in these sectors.

Lagarde is accompanying the French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is on a four-day visit to India. Sarkozy is leading a team of ministers and a high-level business delegation to strengthen bilateral ties in key areas.

Impetus to Indo-French ties, N-plant deal in Maharashtra

Injecting a new impetus to their strategic ties, India and France today signed seven agreements, including one for setting up of a nuclear plant in Maharashtra, the first such pact after the end of New Delhi’s isolation in the nuclear field.

A Nuclear Power Plant in India.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and French President Nicolas Sarkozy also decided to work for doubling bilateral trade to 12 billion Euros by 2012, much of which is expected to be propelled by enhanced cooperation in the fields of civil nuclear energy and civil aviation.

Singh and Sarkozy held extensive talks on a host of issues like enhancement of bilateral ties in a wide range of areas such as defence, counter-terrorism, space, science and technology besides discussing the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

French Prez Sarkozy backs India’s civil N-programme

French President Nicolas Sarkozy today expressed his country’s full support to development of India’s civil nuclear programme but felt access to this industry was “restricted”.

 

French President Nicolas Sarkozy of France greets India's Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, at the G8 summit. Photo: AP

Soon after he arrived here on a four-day visit, Sarkozy also backed India’s entry into Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and its case for a permanent membership of the expanded United Nations Security Council, saying it was “unthinkable” to keep a country of over one billion out.

“France is a friend of India. It will stand with it in its efforts in developing non-polluting energy and nuclear industry,” the French President said addressing scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

“We need to put an end to nuclear isolation of India”.

It was injustice done to India challenging your right to access to civil nuclear energy,” Sarkozy, who is on his second visit to India, said.

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