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France to Renegotiate Military Accords Throughout Africa


French President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced a new chapter of diplomatic, economic, and military relations with Africa. On a visit to South Africa, Mr. Sarkozy said France will renegotiate all military accords with African countries. For VOA, Terry FitzPatrick reports from Cape Town.

Saying it is "unrealistic and dangerous" to manage world affairs without involving Africa, French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced his country is changing its approach. In a joint media briefing with South African President Thabo Mbeki, Mr. Sarkozy said France will renegotiate its military deals throughout the continent.

"This, as I have said to President Mbeki, is a major turning point in the history of our relations," he said. "I think we need once and for all to upgrade and update - that is why I say review - the agreements that we have, and some date back to some 60 years ago. We are now in the 21st century as a opposed to the 20th century."

France has thousands of troops at military bases in Djibouti, Senegal, Gabon and Reunion Island. There are also French soldiers on peacekeeping and refugee assistance missions in Ivory Coast, Chad and the Central African Republic.

Mr. Sarkozy did not reveal how his country's troop deployments might change, but he promised to publish new military agreements once they are completed. The French president also supported expansion of the G-8 group of the world's top economies, to include African nations.

"I think it is absolutely unthinkable, unimaginable, to try and solve the world's problems without in some way involving Africa," he said. "It is unthinkable that for such as the G-8, where countries such as this one, and other major countries, African countries, South American countries, India, China, not to mention Mexico, should not in some way be present and represented."

South African President Thabo Mbeki welcomed the announcements by Mr. Sarkozy.

"I think it is a very important message to us as Africans," he said. "It is part, in a way, of the completion of the decolonization process."

On Friday, Mr. Sarkozy will lead discussions between South African and French business leaders. He brought the heads of 40 top French companies with him. The two countries have signed a $2 billion agreement for a French firm to build a coal-fired power plant to ease South Africa's crippling electricity shortages.


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