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French minister urges patience in Lebanon kidnapping case

June 16, 2011 10:19 P.M. (Updated: June 16, 2011 10:19 P.M.)
TALLINN (AFP) -- France is committed to helping Estonia free its seven citizens kidnapped in Lebanon but patience is required to solve the sensitive case, France's European affairs minister said Thursday in Tallinn.

"France as the country that knows Lebanon better than any other country in Europe has assisted and is assisting Estonia with all the means we have in the Lebanon kidnapping case," minister Laurent Wauquiez told reporters.

"It might take time until it ends, but we do our best to help to free Estonians," Wauquiez assured, speaking in English.

Like the Estonian leaders he met Thursday, Wauquiez wore a yellow ribbon which in Estonia has come to symbolize hope that the men kidnapped in Lebanon on March 23 will come home.

"Lebanon authorities have done a good job investigating the case and nine people have been arrested," Wauquiez told AFP after his talks with Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip and Foreign Minister Urmas Paet.

He added that since Estonia has no embassy in Lebanon, France was providing all the necessary logistical help on the ground in Lebanon as well as in Syria.

"We work widely on (the) Estonians kidnapping case, not only in Lebanon but also with Syria where France has good contacts," Wauquiez said, stressing he could not provide more details for security reasons.

Seven Estonian tourists, all in their 30s, were kidnapped on March 23 shortly after entering Lebanon on a bicycle tour from neighbouring Syria.

In the last video released by kidnappers in May the captives pleaded for help, criticising their government for abandoning them and saying they were in "great danger".

The case remains shrouded in mystery with little information gleaned on their whereabouts or those behind the abduction.

Wauquiez was in Tallinn for talks on energy security, to learn more about Estonia's cutting edge system of e-governance and agree measures to create a more secure e-commerce environment across the 27-member EU.

France and Estonia pledged to "work out proposals and ideas about common rules on a European Union digital single market," Wauquiez told AFP.

He also praised the tiny Baltic nation of 1.3 million which became the first ex-Soviet state to enter the eurozone on January 1, 2011 for its strict fiscal discipline.

"If all eurozone states follow Estonia's budget and economy policy, cut spending and make responsible budgets, we would not need to worry in Europe any more about the stability of (the) euro," Wauquiez observed.

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