Clinton hopes France won't withdraw
WASHINGTON (PAN): A day after President Nicolas Sarkozy threatened to withdraw from Afghanistan in the wake of the killing of four French troops, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hoped that Paris would not take such an extreme step.
"We are in close contact with our French colleagues, and we have no reason to believe that France will do anything other than continue to be part of the very carefully considered transition process as we look at our exit," she said on Friday.
At a press conference with the visiting German foreign minister, she said: "I am in great sympathy with what happened to the French soldiers. It was terrible. I can certainly appreciate the strong feelings that are being expressed."
Separately, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt John Kirby told reporters during an off-camera news conference: "We mourn their losses today, but those are decisions that only the French government and the French people can make."
Hailing France as valued member of the ISAF team, he said he did not want to get ahead of any discussions or decision that France might make with regard to its presence.
"We believe the mission in Afghanistan is very important. The coalition is very important," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said at his daily news conference.
The NATO secretary-general termed it a sad day for the alliance troops. "Unfortunately, this is a very sad day for our troops in Afghanistan and for the French people," he remarked.
He called the incident, terrible and tragic, saying the reality was that 130,000 ISAF troops from 50 nations daily fought and trained together with over 300,000 Afghan soldiers.
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