France offers navy support to U.S.
PARIS, France -- France has spelt out how it will help the U.S. fight terror attacks, including opening its airspace to American military planes.
French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin told the National Assembly on Wednesday that his administration had agreed to U.S. requests to open its airspace and offer its naval co-operation in the Indian Ocean, mainly for logistic support.
France, a member of NATO, confirmed its solidarity with the United States -- or "the nation to whom we owe our victory over the Nazis" as Jospin told the assembly.
Jospin also called for better cooperation between countries to track down terror networks, regardless of different systems or police forces, and the need to shut down the financial networks supporting them.
"The fight against terror is a common imperative for democracies and must become so for all nations," Jospin added.
This fight, he said "is a necessary and methodical act, to which we freely devote all our efforts."
But any military action requested by the U.S. would be carefully evaluated by Paris.
Jospin added: "If, above the current cooperation in intelligence and logistical support, France's military cooperation is requested, that would mean our country should be fully engaged in the definition of (the operation's) political goals and the planning of operations."
He also talked about tightening anti-terrorist laws which would give police more powers to search property as well as laws to heighten security on the Internet.
Jospin also addressed fears of a chemical or biological weapons attack, by boosting aid to laboratories to help them come up with antidotes when possible and improve detection.
An international research drive was needed to develop vaccines against infectious substances, he added.
Jospin's speech came after he met French President Jacques Chirac and the defence, finance, foreign and interior ministers to discuss the consequences of the September 11 attacks.
The decision on logistical support was communicated several days ago to Washington, but only made public on Wednesday after the special Cabinet meeting.
Jospin has pledged to consult parliament before making any major French commitment.
The announcement was made as intense political and diplomatic activity was taking place in Brussels where European Union leaders were meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin.
They agreed to set up joint committees which will meet monthly to discuss foreign and defence policy.
The scheduled meeting came a day after Putin said he was convinced Osama bin Laden had a role in the attacks and suggested Russia's cooperation in fighting terrorism should usher in a new era in its relations with the West.
French Ministry of Foreign Affairs
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