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An embarrassing week for Ben Ali’s friends in Paris

The EU Observer has a useful roundup of the French political figures who probably quickly removed the Zine El Abidine Ben Ali handshake photos from their office walls last month. There’s new Foreign Minister Michelle Aillot-Marie, who’s been under attack from opposition leaders for suggesting last week that France might help Ben Ali restore calm. ...

STR/AFP/Getty Images
STR/AFP/Getty Images

The EU Observer has a useful roundup of the French political figures who probably quickly removed the Zine El Abidine Ben Ali handshake photos from their office walls last month.

There’s new Foreign Minister Michelle Aillot-Marie, who’s been under attack from opposition leaders for suggesting last week that France might help Ben Ali restore calm. She claims she was not suggesting, as others interpreted, that France send troops or riot police to help put down the protests.

Then there’s her predecessor, Bernard Kouchner, who despite his reputation as an uncompromising defender of human rights, took a slightly more realist view when it came to France’s former colony: 

Under his watch, in April, 2009, France reached a nuclear energy co-operation deal with Tunis and delivered an €80 million aid package. The month before, criticised by NGOs for the closeness of the two governments, he said: "It’s true that there are human rights abuses in Tunisia, journalists who are harassed, sometimes imprisoned, and a general policy of firmness," before going on to praise the country’s economic and social achievements, in particular the status of women and the values of secularism.

"Every year, Human Rights Watch publishes a large book on the state of human rights around the world," he said, but "Tunisia hardly figures at all."

However, the previous year, the most recent edition of the HRW survey contained no fewer than six pages of criticisms, detailing torture, pressure on the judiciary and press censorship.

Then there’s IMF chief and French presidential frontrunner Dominique Straus-Kahn, who praised Tunisia’s economic success for years and described it as "the best model for many emerging countries. Strauss-Kahn was even awarded the Order of the Tunisian Republic, the country’s highest economic honor.

EU Observer also reports that the Socialist International, a global alliance of center-left parties, expelled Ben Ali’s RCD party today after three decades of membership.  (Though Socialist leaders did also take the opportunity to accuse the right-wing European People’s Party of ties to Ben Ali.) Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s NDP is also a longtime member of the International.

 

The EU Observer has a useful roundup of the French political figures who probably quickly removed the Zine El Abidine Ben Ali handshake photos from their office walls last month.

There’s new Foreign Minister Michelle Aillot-Marie, who’s been under attack from opposition leaders for suggesting last week that France might help Ben Ali restore calm. She claims she was not suggesting, as others interpreted, that France send troops or riot police to help put down the protests.

Then there’s her predecessor, Bernard Kouchner, who despite his reputation as an uncompromising defender of human rights, took a slightly more realist view when it came to France’s former colony: 

Under his watch, in April, 2009, France reached a nuclear energy co-operation deal with Tunis and delivered an €80 million aid package. The month before, criticised by NGOs for the closeness of the two governments, he said: "It’s true that there are human rights abuses in Tunisia, journalists who are harassed, sometimes imprisoned, and a general policy of firmness," before going on to praise the country’s economic and social achievements, in particular the status of women and the values of secularism.

"Every year, Human Rights Watch publishes a large book on the state of human rights around the world," he said, but "Tunisia hardly figures at all."

However, the previous year, the most recent edition of the HRW survey contained no fewer than six pages of criticisms, detailing torture, pressure on the judiciary and press censorship.

Then there’s IMF chief and French presidential frontrunner Dominique Straus-Kahn, who praised Tunisia’s economic success for years and described it as "the best model for many emerging countries. Strauss-Kahn was even awarded the Order of the Tunisian Republic, the country’s highest economic honor.

EU Observer also reports that the Socialist International, a global alliance of center-left parties, expelled Ben Ali’s RCD party today after three decades of membership.  (Though Socialist leaders did also take the opportunity to accuse the right-wing European People’s Party of ties to Ben Ali.) Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s NDP is also a longtime member of the International.

 

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy  Twitter: @joshuakeating