France 'helped Saddam stifle dissent'
AFP and Expatica France News
LONDON, April 28 - France colluded with the Iraqi secret service to undermine a Paris conference held in April 2000 by the human rights group Indict, the Daily Telegraph reported Monday citing documents found in the foreign ministry in Baghdad.
The right-wing daily quoted a letter from the Iraqi secret service dated March 28 saying that "one of our sources" had met the deputy spokesman for the French foreign ministry "with whom he has good relations."
The letter added that no French visas would be given to Iraqi opposition leaders who wanted to attend the meeting, which opened at the Paris hotel, La Concorde Lafayette on April 14 2000, the Telegraph said.
British Labour member of parliament Ann Clwyd, who heads Indict, told the Telegraph that she would demand an apology from the French government for its "atrocious" attitude.
Clwyd said the conference was the target of several attempts at disruption.
"Saddam supporters staged a protest outside before it started, she said, and at one point a bomb scare led to the hall having to be evacuated," The Telegraph reported.
Victims of Saddam's regime gave evidence at the conference and filming was strictly forbidden because they feared being identified but someone smuggled in a camera and started filming, Clwyd said.
"The police were called. But they could not take the film from the man because he was an Iraqi accredited to the Moroccan embassy," she added
The Telegraph reported that the French foreign affairs ministry denied "specific collaboration to disrupt the conference", although "a Quai d'Orsay source said it should not come as a surprise that French officials met Iraqi intelligence officers in Baghdad."
The Telegraph claimed the Baghdad documents revealed that "a month after the meeting, a letter headed "Role of Southern France" (sic) from Saddam's office authorised the finance ministry to pay USD 383,439 to undisclosed beneficiaries."
"A memo dated April 18, 2000, was sent to Saddam's office by the then foreign minister, Mohammad Said al-Sahaf, who later became the information minister nicknamed Comical Ali. It is headed "The Failed Enemy Conference in Paris" and says that the French media ignored the event," the paper reported.