French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner publicly apologized Monday "for having interfered in Iraqi affairs" for suggesting that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki stand down.
"If the prime minister wants me to excuse myself for having interfered in Iraqi affairs in such a direct way, then I do so willingly," Kouchner - who visited Baghdad during August 19-21 - said on French radio station RTL.
Maliki Sunday demanded an official apology from the French government after Kouchner indicated, in the online edition of the US magazine Newsweek, that the embattled prime minister had to go.
"I just had [US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice] on the phone 10 or 15 minutes ago, and I told her, 'Listen, he's got to be replaced,'" Kouchner was quoted as telling Newsweek.
"Many people believe the prime minister ought to be changed. I don't know if that will go through, though, because it seems President [George W.] Bush is attached to Mr. Maliki. But the government is not functioning."
Maliki angrily demanded an apology from France, saying: "In the past, you backed the former [Saddam Hussein] regime. Today, we were happy with you, and then you decided to support the former regime's loyalists."
Speaking Monday, Kouchner said: "I believe that he [Maliki] did not understand, or that I did not stress enough that these had been remarks that I had heard from my Iraqi interlocutors."
While expressing his apologies, Kouchner added: "I am not alone in making some criticism in the face of a hotbed of tension and daily outrages that anger the world.
"I should have said, once again, and I repeat it, that these were remarks held by my interlocutors that I had just come from hearing. If they had been misinterpreted, I am sorry."
Kouchner's trip to Baghdad signaled France's readiness, under its new president Nicolas Sarkozy, to become more engaged in Iraq, after Paris and Washington fell out over the US-led invasion in March 2003.
In an op-ed article Monday in the International Herald Tribune newspaper, Kouchner said France was ready to act as a mediator in Iraq, arguing that there could only be a political solution, not a military one.
He appealed for the United Nations and Iraq's neighbors to take a more active role, saying: "The methods used to build a secure and democratic Iraq have failed."
Last Mod: 27 Ağustos 2007, 15:30