France halts medical mission to aid abductee Betancourt

Paris/Bogota - France has cancelled its planned mission to provide medical treatment to French-Colombian citizen Ingrid Betancourt, who is reportedly languishing in poor health after more than six years as a captive of Marxist rebels.

The Foreign Ministry announced late Tuesday in Paris that a French Air Force plane, equipped to deliver medical treatment and waiting since last week in Bogota, would be flying home.

French authorities had been waiting in vain for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to agree to allow Betancourt to receive a visit from French doctors.

French government refutes claims by Arche de Zoe head

Paris  - The French government on Tuesday refuted claims by the founder of the controversial French charity Arche de Zoe (Zoe's Ark) that it knew and approved of his plans to fly 103 supposed Darfur orphans out of Chad.

In a press statement, the Foreign Ministry said it had "always expressed its opposition to the project presented by the leaders of Arche de Zoe," and charged that the operation had been "obscured from beginning to end."

In interviews with France Info radio and the daily Le Figaro, the charity's founder, Eric Breteau, had said Monday that he had divulged his plans to an advisor to President Nicolas Sarkozy and to Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner's political advisor.

Eurotunnel posts first-ever profit

Paris  - Franco-British company Eurotunnel, which manages the undersea rail tunnels linking Britain and France, said Tuesday that it had posted the first profit in its
14-year history in 2007.

Profit for the year was roughly 1 million euros (1.57 million dollars), compared to losses of 204 million euros in 2006 and of 2.81 billion euros in 2005.

Turnover was up some 6 per cent over 2006, at 775 million euros, with revenues from Eurotunnel's core shuttle business rising by 8 per cent, to 500 million euros, the company said in a press statement.

Olympic Torch extinguished as protesters disrupt Paris relay leg

Paris - The Olympic torch was extinguished at least twice Monday in Paris as thousands of anti-China protesters disrupted its passage through the French capital, French media reported.

Police said that the torch was extinguished "for technical reasons" that were not related to the protests, but some media said that the action was taken to protect the torch from the human-rights demonstrators lining the planned 28-kilometre route.

An International Olympic Committee (IOC) spokesman said that the group would not comment on the incidents.

"The torch is the responsibility of ... the local Olympic committee," he said, adding that the Olympic flame "never dies."

France in contact with Somali pirates holding 30 yacht crew hostage

Sana'a, Yemen - France has made contact with Somali pirates holding 30 mostly French crew members hostage off the coast of Somalia, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said in a radio interview Sunday.

"We've made contact and the matter could last a long time," Kouchner told France Inter radio. "Our contact needs to be fruitful and we have to do everything to avoid bloodshed."

Kouchner did not rule out the payment of a ransom to secure the release of the crew - 22 French nationals and about 10 Ukrainians.

The luxury yacht, the Ponant, was sailing from Somalia to the southern Yemeni port of Aden when armed pirates boarded it and took the entire crew hostage on Friday.

French anger as military graves are smeared with anti-Islam slogans

Paris - Dismay and anger were expressed in France Sunday after 148 graves at a military cemetery in the country's north were found to have been daubed overnight with anti-Islam slogans.

Some of the daubing at the Notre Dame de Lorette graveyard near Arras was directed at Justice Minister Rachida Dati, who is of North African origin, said local state prosecutor Jean-Pierre Valensi.

A pig's head had been hung on one of the graves, which stem from World War I. The graveyard had already seen 52 graves daubed with Nazi slogans a year previously.

The office of president Nicolas Sarkozy spoke of "quite intolerable racism" and "a despicable act" which insulted all soldiers of World War I, irrespective of their creed. (dpa)

Pirates take French yacht in the Gulf of Aden

Sana'a, Yemen - Somali pirates took over a French yacht off in the Gulf of Aden and held hostage 30 mostly French crew members on Friday, a Yemeni port official said.

The luxury yacht, the Ponant, was sailing from Somalia to the southern Yemeni port of Aden when armed pirates boarded it and took the entire crew hostage, an official at the southern Yemeni port of Aden told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

"According to the information we have received, no passengers were on board," said the official, who asked anonymity.

He said the ship originated in the Seychelles heading to the Mediterranean Sea and made a refuelling stop at a Somali port on Thursday.

French government plans 11 billion dollars in austerity measures

Paris - The French government on Friday started debating austerity measures of 7 billion euros (11 billion dollars) over the next three years.

Around half the amount is to be saved by reducing the number of civil servants: for every two that retire, only one will be replaced.

In the first year, this would result in 35,000 fewer civil servants and savings of 500 million euros, French media reported.

However, half of the savings would be used to improve the salaries of those left in the civil service, Les Echos newspaper reported Friday.

Other measures would hit government provision of social housing.

France readies jet in Colombian hostages drama

Paris - France has prepared to send a passenger jet to French Guyana for the eventuality of a breakthrough in the Colombian hostages drama and possible release of Ingrid Betancourt, reports said Sunday in Paris.

The Sunday paper Journal du Dimanche cited Elysee Palace sources as saying that a Falcon 900 executive jet was standing ready at an air base in Cayenne.

"We have no information about whether a solution is imminent or not, but we want to make sure of every possibility," an Elysee Palace spokesman told the paper.

Steel Strips Wheels bags order worth Rs 110 crore from French auto major Renault SA

Steel Strips Wheels Limited, a part of the Steel Strips Group, has secured an order valued at Rs 110 crore from France-based, Renault SA for supply of about 1 million steel wheel rims over 5 next years.

Renault SA is one of the largest manufacturer of cars in Europe and the leading manufacturer of light commercial vehicles.

This export order is for one of their new vehicles to be produced in Europe.

Steel Strips Wheels manufactures and sells single piece steel wheel rims for scooters, passenger cars, utility vehicles, and tractors in India. It also exports its products to Europe and North America.

The Company expects its exports to grow over 200% in FY 08-09 and hopes to cross Export of 4,25,000 Wheels Rims in Fiscal 2008-09.

French clowns spread fun and laughter in Rajasthan village

Samode (Rajasthan), Feb 22: Laughter rings in the air in a small courtyard of a house in Rajasthan, as a group of French clowns try to cheer residents up.

Barefooted French and Indian artists with colourful hats and trademark red noses use body action and wordless expression to interact with residents of Samode village.

The seven French artists led by Jathper Menal, a renowned French clown director, and their Indian counterparts are performing in the village as part of a bilateral cultural exchange programme.

Lorence, a French artist, says she has been able to discover India through her acts of clowning.

Societe Generale keeps Bouton as CEO

France President Nocolas SarkozyFrance 31 January :- French bank Societe Generale's board on Wednesday kept Daniel Bouton as the bank's CEO, rebuffing French President Nicolas Sarkozy's demand for the bank's leaders to face up to their responsibilities of a trading fraud.

The bank said that it was keeping its top people in place, asking Bouton and his deputy Philippe Citerne to stay on through the crisis.

10th Indo-French Defence Cooperation meet today

10th Indo-French Defence Cooperation meet todayNew Delhi, Dec 17: The two-day meeting of the 10th India-France High Committee on Defence Cooperation (HCC) will begin here today.

Defence related activities such as joint exercises, high-level visits, transfer of technology and activities relating to co-development and co-production will be discussed at the meeting.

The meeting will be co-chaired by Defence Secretary Vijay Singh and representative of French Minister of Defence Thierry Borja de Mozota.

Orange will sell Apple iPhone with contract in France; T-Mobile wants 999 Euro

Apple iPhone Orange France, T-Mobile Germany
French Telecom giant Orange is ready to offer Apple iPhone with a two year contract. Orange has reported on its website that the company will be offering iPhone along with contract for a minimum of Euro 1,176. Apple iPhone has been very popular in the United States. In Germany, thousand of buyers gathered outside the stores to grab the gadget which offers easy Media management, Internet browsing and phone features.

French missile sale to Pakistan may ultimately land in Chinese hands

New Delhi, Sept 14: Pakistan is presently negotiating with the French Government to buy air-to-air missiles and radars for its JF-17 fighter aircraft, but there are apprehensions that this European technology could fall into Chinese hands.

Experts say a possibility exists of circumventing a European arms embargo on China that has been in place since the Chinese military crushed pro-democracy protests in 1989.

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