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France says no to hostage video Afghan pull-out plea

France will not give in to demands that it pull out of Afghanistan, officials say, after Al Qaeda’s release of a video of hostages in north Africa apparently pleading for the pull-out so that they can be freed.

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“France never allows its policy, especially its foreign policy to be dictated from outside, in this case by hostage-takers,” foreign ministry spokesperson Bernard Valero told RFI Wednesday in response to a video released by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim).

Dossier: AfPak news and analysis

A copy of the video shows a series of photographs of Pierre Legrand, Daniel Larribe, Thierry Dol and Marc Furrer, who were among seven people kidnapped last September, with armed men standing behind them. An audio track that appears to be the men reading a prepared statement, one by one, urges President Nicolas Sarkozy to pull French troops out of Afghanistan.

"We urge the president of the French republic, Nicolas Sarkozy, to respond positively to Al Qaeda's demand he withdraw French troops from Afghanistan, as the French have really no interest in the war in Afghanistan," it says.

According to the voices, the recordings were made on 1, 12 and 13 April.

Mohamed Ould Sidy Ahmed, an MP from northern Mali where Aqim is most active, told the AFP news agency the video of the four hostages distributed by the US-based jihad watchdog Site on Tuesday was a "double message."

Firstly, while three others kidnapped alongside the French had been freed, the main condition for freeing the remaining four hostages would be meeting Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden's demand that French troops leave Afghanistan.

"The second message is also important," he added. "Aqim is increasing its tone vis-à-vis Paris. To Aqim, France is dragging its feet. Threats are beginning to land."

British hostage Edwin Dyer and French hostage Michel Germeneau were executed in 2009 and 2010 respectively following similar threats.
 

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