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Meeting honours legacy of de Gaulle in Arab world.

Abu Dhabi: General Charles de Gaulle's legacy and ultimate commitment to independence for the Arab world was honoured on Sunday at a conference held in the capital.

"He knew the epics and dreams of Arab unity that trespassed barriers: physical barriers of desert, political divisions and threats of the powerful Ottoman and Persian neighbours," Domin-ique de Villepin, France's former prime minister, said in his opening remarks.

After fighting in World War One and leading the Free French Forces in World War Two, de Gaulle entered politics.

From Prime Minister to President, he revolution-ised his country's Arab policy by controversially granting Algeria's independence in 1962. His change of heart over Arab independence would play a major role in his relationship with the Arab world.

"The Gaullist France does not segment its foreign policy, unlike many other countries. It does not apply regional policies. It requires the presence of three elements: stability, unity, sovereignty, provided by the policy of non-interference and independence," de Villepin said.

"The Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains the cancer that is corrupting the whole region. There is no long-term solution without a satisfactory resolution of this crisis which touches the basic need for justice," de Villepin told the conference.

A Although much of the Arab world is anticipating improvement between them and the West with the election of Barack Obama to the United States Presidency, de Villepin is sceptical of dramatic results.

"We know this is going to be very difficult because Barack Obama is going to be mainly concerned by the situation in the US itself. He will have to make difficult choices. He has made a lot of promises but now is the time for action. What will be the main priority?

"How is he going to handle the situation on Iraq and Afghanistan? I am quite worried that the departing of the troops in Iraq may be replaced by more troops in Afghanis-tan. There is no military solution," de Villepin told Gulf News, stressing that Obama must give priority to the creation of a Palestinian state as the foundation to peace in the region.

The conference, Charles De Gaulle and the Arab World, is organised by Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Nov 17, 2008
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