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France ‘in contact, not negotiating’ with Libya

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Tuesday that France had had "contacts" with the Libyan regime concerning the departure of leader Muammar Qaddafi but no real negotiations had taken place.

“There have indeed been contacts, but it has not turned into a real negotiation,” he told France Info radio station. “The Libyan regime is sending messengers everywhere: to Turkey, New York, Paris,” he said.

“We are meeting envoys who say to us: look, ‘Qaddafi is ready to go, let’s talk about it’,” he added.

Qaddafi’s son Seif Al-Islam told the Algerian daily El Khabar in an interview published Monday that Tripoli was “holding real negotiations with France and not with the rebels” fighting to out him.

France has been taking part for four months in a military campaign targeting Qaddafi’s military sites under a UN mandate to protect civilians from his forces. The French parliament was expected to vote on Tuesday to prolong the mission.

France’s government has said the NATO bombings will not stop until Qaddafi quits power.

“The conditions for a ceasefire are not yet met,” Juppe said Tuesday.

These are a return of Qaddafi’s troops to their barracks, permission for UN monitors on the ground and “a declaration by Qaddafi, in a form yet to determined, that he is withdrawing from political and military power,” he said.

The prime minister in Qaddafi’s regime, Baghdadi al-Mahmudi, said negotiations between Tripoli, the rebels and NATO could go ahead without Qaddafi’s involvement.

“The Guide will not intervene in these discussions. Everything must be done freely,” he was quoted as saying by French daily Le Figaro.

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French forces tortured and murdered Algerian freedom fighter in 1950s, admits Macron

French forces "tortured and murdered" Algerian freedom fighter Ali Boumendjel during his country's war for independence, President Emmanuel Macron admitted on Tuesday, officially reappraising a death that was covered up as a suicide.

French forces tortured and murdered Algerian freedom fighter in 1950s, admits Macron
Malika, the widow of Ali Boumendjel, pictured in 2001. Photo: Stefan Fferberg/AFP

Macron made the admission “in the name of France” during a meeting with Boumendjel’s grandchildren.

The move comes after Macron in January refused to issue an official apology for abuses committed during the occupation of Algeria – instead, he agreed to form a “truth commission” as recommended by a report commissioned by the government to shed light on France’s colonial past.

Atrocities committed by both sides during the 1954-1962 Algerian war of independence continue to strain relations between the countries.

Boumendjel, a nationalist and lawyer, was arrested during the battle of Algiers by the French army, “placed incommunicado, tortured, and then killed on 23 March 1957,” the Elysee Palace said in a statement.

“Ali Boumendjel did not commit suicide. He was tortured and then killed,” Macron told Boumendjel’s grandchildren, according to the statement.

It is not the first time the real cause of death was acknowledged.

In 2000, the former head of French intelligence in Algiers Paul Aussaresses confessed to ordering Boumendjel’s death and disguising the murder as a suicide, according to the statement.

It added that Macron on Tuesday had also reiterated his desire to give families the opportunity to find out the truth about this chapter of history.

Last month, Boumendjel’s niece Fadela Boumendjel-Chitour denounced what she called the “devastating” lie the French state had told about her uncle.

French historian Benjamin Stora, who wrote the government-commissioned report, has said there is a “never-ending memory war” between the two countries.

The report has been described by the Algerian government as “not objective” and falling “below expectations.”

During his 2017 election campaign, Macron – the first president born after the colonial period – declared that the occupation of Algeria was a “crime against humanity”.

He has since said there was “no question of showing repentance” or of “presenting an apology” for abuses committed in the North African country.