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France Supports UN Special Envoy for Afghanistan

France's President Jacques Chirac has expressed strong support for United Nations efforts to assist in the development of a new government in Afghanistan.

After meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Mr. Chirac told reporters France fully supports the work of special U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. Mr. Brahimi has been traveling extensively in the Afghan region, meeting with leaders of neighboring countries and also with representative of groups that might be involved in a new Afghan coalition government.

Speaking through an English interpreter, Mr. Chirac said the Taleban has brought misery to the Afghan people, sheltered terrorists and must be replaced. "It is essential that there be another regime that has to be representative of the entire population and, in particular, of the different ethnic groups which exist in Afghanistan," he said. "It has to be a government which has good relationships with the neighboring countries and it has to be a government which can gradually establish democracy in Afghanistan."

Next week, special U.N. representative Brahimi is expected to present a report on his recent mission. President Chirac says France and Britain will sponsor a resolution in the U.N. Security Council supporting Mr. Brahimi's efforts. Mr. Chirac said he had discussed a political solution in Afghanistan with President George W. Bush in a meeting earlier in the day.

Regarding France's military commitment to the war against the al-Qaida fighters and Taleban troops in Afghanistan, Mr. Chirac said his nation has already committed 2,000 troops. He said France may also send special operations forces but only if his nation is involved in the planning for their mission.