The French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner has been forced to apologise after calling for the Iraqi Premier, Nouri al-Maliki to resign because, he claimed, his government is not working. Kouchner made the comments after a visit to Baghdad last week, which was meant to mark a new French approach to Iraq.
The French President, Nicholas Sarkozy defended his minister, whom the opposition accused of complete amateurism.
Sarkozy said: “There will only be a political solution in Iraq, and that will only happen by marginalising extremist groups, and with a sincere process of national reconciliation. That’s the message Bernard Kouchner took to Baghdad. It’s a message of solidarity and availability. He was right to go to Baghdad, and he conducted the trip in a remarkable way.”
It was the first visit to Iraq by a French minister since the US-led invasion in 2003, which had been strongly opposed by the Chirac government. The Iraqi Prime Minister demanded an apology from France for Kouchner’s comments, and further criticised the American Senators Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin, who have also called for him to go.
Al-Maliki has announced a new political accord between Iraq’s main Sunni, Shi-ite and Kurdish leaders but the biggest Arab Sunni bloc warned it is not enough to lure back Sunni ministers who are boycotting the government.