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Hollande seeks to remind US of France's sway

The Local/AFP · 24 Sep 2013, 16:04

Published: 24 Sep 2013 16:04 GMT+02:00

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Hollande will have some making up to do when he undertakes a major PR offensive in New York on Tuesday.

After appearing to have been left isolated during the negotiations over how to respond to the Syria chemical attack, the French president will hope to reinforce France’s position on a global level.

Hollande is in New York for the 68th meeting of the UN General Assembly where he will deliver a speech to gathered world leaders. The French president will also take time out to meet the Iranian President Hassan Rowhani as well as give his first major interview to an Anglo TV channel.

The French president will speak to the American people when he gives an interview to US news channel CNN, that will be broadcast at 8pm French time on Tuesday evening.

He will be grilled by veteran journalist Christiane Amanpour, with the subject of Syria top of her list of questions. The US audience will not hear Hollande answer questions in English however, as he did on a recent rip to India, with the CNN interview set to be conducted in French through translators.

“It looks very much like an attempt to regain ground lost over Syria,” Professor Philippe Marlière form London’s UCL told The Local. "He was ridiculed back in France when he was sidelined by the US and Russia and he had dissenting voices on the right and from within his own party.

“It’s a PR exercise to show that he is still a major player on the Syria dossier. Through CNN, which carries some clout in the US, Hollande will hope to get in touch with the American people and show them that the voice of France still matters,” Marlière added.

President to meet Iranian counterpart

Hollande is also to hold a landmark meeting with new Iranian President Hassan Rowhani. Officials said the meeting with Hollande on Tuesday had been organized at the request of Iran and would focus on the crisis in Syria and Iran's nuclear programme.

"What we want to see is an Iran fully engaged, like other players, in the search for a real political transition in Syria," an aide to Hollande said.

Rowhani has offered to mediate between the Syrian regime and the opposition but French officials said that was unlikely to happen soon, judging the government in Tehran to be too close to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Story continues below…

"We all know the role Iran has played at the side of the regime," foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot said on Friday. "They themselves acknowledge providing military, not just political, support."

Hollande's staff did not, however, rule out Iranian involvement in the event of Syrian peace talks resuming in Geneva. "When the time comes, we will have to involve all the players directly concerned," an official said.

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The Local/AFP (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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