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December 29, 1999
No proof yet of Pak hand, says France
Ranvir Nayar in Paris
France has strongly condemned the hijacking of the Indian Airlines Flight 814, calling it a dastardly terrorist action.
``France strongly condemns the terrorists' action of hijacking the Indian Airlines aircraft,'' Anne Gazeau-Secret, spokesperson of the French Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres or the French foreign ministry told rediff.com in Paris.
Gazeau-Secret said the French embassies in New Delhi, Islamabad and Kathmandu are following the situation in Kandahar very closely and that the French government has been in close contact with not just the authorities in the three capitals but also with the United Nations and the International Committee of Red Cross regarding the situation of the hostages.
Gazeau-Secret told rediff.com that there was at least one French national among the 160-odd hostages on board the Airbus A 300. However, rediff.com understands that there are two French nationals on board the ill-fated aircraft.
France has also despatched its Consul in Islamabad to Kandahar, who has been in Kandahar since Monday evening. ``Our goal right now is naturally to try and obtain the liberation of all the hostages, as soon as possible,'' the French official said. France has reacted lukewarmly to the Russian call for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the situation arising from the hijacking drama.
France says its top priority right now is to ensure the release of the hostages and that it wants to focus all the energies towards that end. ``We fully support the efforts of the UN Special Envoy de Mul's efforts in the current crisis,'' is all that the French would say regarding the role that the UN could play in the current crisis.
Though the French officials maintain optimism about the prospects of an early and peaceful end to the hijacking, they admit it is almost impossible to predict if the situation could be resolved quickly.
France has also refused to criticise the handling of the entire situation by the Indian government, saying that the government had little room for maneouvre when the drama unfolded with such rapidity. ``We believe the Indian government has done all it could in handling the crisis. If they had prevented the aircraft from taking off from Amritsar and if the hijackers had reacted by killing some hostages, the situation would have been far worse for the government,'' is how some French observers explain the situation.
However, France also appears unconvinced about the allegations by the Indian government that the hijacking is a plot hatched in Pakistan and that the Pakistani government may be involved in the act. ``There is no proof right now. France would first like the secure release of all the hostages and only then can we begin examining issues like who is behind the hijackers,'' an observer told rediff.com in Paris.
NIGHTMARE ON FLIGHT 814
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