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RUSSIA

Hollande: Assad is no anti-jihadist ally of West

President François Hollande declared on Thursday that Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad is not a partner of the West in the battle against Islamist extremists in Syria and Iraq, but an ally of the jihadists.

Hollande: Assad is no anti-jihadist ally of West
Assad is no ally of the West says Hollande. Photo: AFP

Syria's Bashar al-Assad is not the West's partner in the fight against terrorism but an ally of Islamic extremists wreaking havoc in Syria and Iraq, Hollande warned on Thursday.

"Assad cannot be a partner in the fight against terrorism, he is the de facto ally of jihadists," he told a Paris gathering of ambassadors from around the world.

His comments came after Assad's regime said on Monday it was willing to work with the international community, including Washington, to tackle extremist fighters in the war-ravaged country.

Hollande also touched on other crises around the world, including Ukraine where Western intelligence believes Russian army units are operating as part of a four-month conflict that has seen more than 2,200 people lose their lives.

"If it turns out that there are Russian soldiers present on Ukrainian soil, it would be intolerable and unacceptable," he said.

Hollande called on the United Nations to provide special support for authorities in Libya, which is sliding ever deeper into chaos as militias fuel an escalating war.

"France asks the United Nations… to organise exceptional support for Libyan authorities to restore their state," he told a Paris gathering of ambassadors from around the world.

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RUSSIA

Senior French officer held on suspicion of spying for Russia

A senior French military officer stationed at a NATO base has been indicted and jailed on suspicion of spying for Russia, local media and sources said on Sunday.

Senior French officer held on suspicion of spying for Russia
A change of command ceremony at the base of NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance Force in Sigonella, Italy. It is not known at which Italian Nato base the officer was stationed. Photo: Falk Plankenhorn
The French army officer was stationed abroad, a judicial source said confirming details from Europe 1 radio. According to the report, the soldier was stationed on a NATO base in Italy and is suspected of espionage on behalf of Russia.
   
The French government confirmed it was investigating a senior military officer over a “security breach”.
   
“What I can confirm is that a senior officer is facing legal proceedings for a security breach,” Defence Minister Florence Parly told Europe 1 radio, CNews and Les Echos newspaper. She gave no further details.
   
The judicial source said the officer had been indicted and jailed on charges involving “intelligence with a foreign power that undermines the fundamental interests of the nation”.
   
He is being prosecuted for “delivering information to a foreign power”, “collecting information harming the fundamental interests of the nation with a view to delivering them to a foreign power” and “compromising the secrecy of national defence”, the source said.
 
   
Europe 1 said the officer was a lieutenant-colonel stationed with NATO in Italy and had been placed under investigation on suspicion of spying for Russia.
   
He speaks Russian and was seen in Italy with a man identified as an agent of the GRU, the Russian military intelligence
service, the report said. It said he is suspected of having supplied sensitive documents to Russian intelligence.
   
The man was arrested by DGSI intelligence service as he was about to leave for Italy at the end of his holidays in France, and is being held at a prison in Paris, Europe 1 said.
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