France denies being sidelined by US in Haiti

2010-01-19 13:35

France on Tuesday dismissed suggestions that it was being sidelined

from the Haiti relief effort by the United States after President Barack Obama

reached out to Brazil and Canada for cooperation.

“No one is excluding anyone,” the French minister for Europe,

Pierre Lellouche, told a television interview. “America needs Europe and Europe

needs the United States.”

Obama called Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on

Monday to propose that the United States, Brazil and Canada jointly assume

leadership for relief efforts in quake-stricken Haiti.

An international conference is to be held in Montreal on January 25

to help Haiti rebuild after the massive earthquake that levelled buildings,

schools and homes, with some officials saying the final death toll could top 200

000.

President Nicolas Sarkozy last week proposed holding a donors’

meeting and said he would work with Obama and leaders in Brazil and Canada to

shepherd the new drive for Haiti reconstruction.

Asked about Obama’s move to enlist Brazil and Canada – but not

France – in the international effort, Lellouche jokingly commented that the US

leader “had a tendency” to forget France.

He quickly added: “I’m joking of course. I think the worst thing

would be to try to pit one against the other.

“We need to work together,” Lellouche told Canal+ television.

There have been grumblings among French politicians over the past

days after the United States cemented its leadership role in Haiti, with

thousands of troops deployed on the Caribbean island nation.

US forces control the airport in Port-au-Prince and decide which

relief planes are allowed to land.

France has sent hundreds of rescuers, two navy ships and aid to

Haiti, while pressing the European Union to deploy a security force to quell the

chaos from desperate survivors fighting for food and water.

French development minister Alain Joyandet on Monday called on the

United Nations to clarify the US role in Haiti and noted that the priority was

“helping Haiti, not occupying Haiti.”

Joyandet, who returned from a visit at Port-au-Prince on Saturday,

said in an interview to Europe 1 that he personally intervened with the US

administration to allow a French aid plane to land.

Lellouche, the Europe minister, acknowledged on Tuesday that Europe

was not playing a high-profile role in Haiti.

“I too am a frustrated European who would want more to be done and

more quickly,” said Lellouche.

Europe’s actions to help Haiti should be “more visible and

stronger“, he said.

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