News from France: Libya, Japan, Nuclear Power, Politics & Wine

By Karen Fawcett

French newspaperThe news from France has been hot and heavy this week. U.S. Secretary Hillary Clinton was in Paris and returned here briefly Saturday to discuss the situation in Libya, plus met privately with President Sarkozy and Alain Juppé. In addition to Libya, Japan, nuclear power, French politics, Peugeot-Citroën and wine have been major topics.

Libya: Following Thursday’s vote at The United Nations, which approved a resolution authorizing a no fly zone in order to protect civilian areas, France announced it was going to initiate military strikes on Libya. This followed Muammar Qaddafi's threat to storm the rebel bastion of Benghazi.

Following a Saturday summit, which was held in Paris and included 22 participants, there was unanimous agreement "to do everything possible to make Qaddafi respect a U.N. Security Council resolution mandating a cease-fire." On Saturday morning, Sarkozy authorized French jets to target Qaddafi's forces. On Saturday night, they fired on Libyan military vehicles. Later that evening, the U.S. and British militaries launched missiles against Qaddafi's forces. U.S. Tomahawk cruise missiles hit Tripoli and Misurata, a Pentagon spokeman reported.

The French military announced in Paris on Saturday that they would deploy more than a dozen ships to assist the two frigates currently stationed off the coast of Libya, as France continues to deploy forces to assist in the military intervention.

France was one of the most strident countries against the invasion of Iraq so it's unusual to see that country taking the lead in the strike against Libya, according to NPR's Eleanor Beardsley. Still, the French seem to be proud of how diplomatically Nicolas Sarkozy has handled the effort. The French president has said that there are some risks, but they are calculated and there is great moral authority to go in and protect people.

According to the New York Times: American and European forces began a broad campaign of strikes against the government of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi on Saturday, unleashing warplanes and missiles in a military intervention on a scale not seen in the Arab world since the Iraq war.

The Pentagon said American forces were mounting an initial campaign to knock out Libya’s air defense systems, firing volley after volley of Tomahawk missiles from nearby ships against missile, radar and communications centers around Tripoli, the capital, and the western cities of Misurata and Surt. Early Sunday, the sound of antiaircraft fire and screaming fighter jets echoed across Tripoli, punctuated by heavy explosions.

Speaking on Libyan state television, Colonel Qaddafi said the international action against his forces was unjustified, calling it “simply a colonial crusader aggression that may ignite another large-scale crusader war.”

Japan: The tragedy continues and as time lapses and weather deteriorates, there are fewer chances of recovering bodies after last week’s series of earthquakes. The global financial markets have been shaken and the safety of nuclear power plants is being monitored. The French Embassy in Tokyo has instructed French nationals to leave the country and Air France has been helping evacuate people.

Nuclear power: France is the world’s second largest nuclear power and more than 75% of its electricity is generated from the 58 plants that are situated throughout the country. President Nicolas Sarkozy has ordered tests on nuclear reactors’ security systems and stated the results would be made public.

French politics: According to a poll by Ipsos Logica for the daily Le Monde and radio Europe 1, Dominique Strauss-Kahn is likely to face far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the second round of France's presidential election. The survey is the second that indicated President Nicolas Sarkozy would be edged out of the running before a second round of voting in France's two-stage presidential election in April and May 2012.

If Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), were selected to stand for the Socialists, he would win 33 percent of the vote in the first round, ahead of Le Pen with 19 percent and Sarkozy with 18 percent.

Employment: Peugeot-Citroën plans to hire 4000 new employees in 2011. Europe’s second-largest car manufacturer has a workforce of 199,000 worldwide, of whom 50% are based in France, and half of them are blue-collar workers.

Wine: The U.S. passed France as the world’s largest wine-consuming nation for the first time, because of its larger population and an interest in wine-and-cheese culture among young Americans. Wine shipments to the U.S. climbed 2 percent to 329.7 million cases last year, according to Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates, a wine-industry consulting firm. That compares with 320.6 million cases in France.

While the French still dramatically surpass Americans in per capita consumption, the U.S. wine industry is benefiting from a domestic population of more than 300 million people—five times the size of France’s. There’s been a surge of young people who have become wine drinkers. Social media is being used to target a new generation of consumers.

More news to follow….

(c) Paris New Media, LLC

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