France looking for missing journalists in Iraq: ministry

Agence France Presse — English
August 22, 2004 Sunday 1:50 PM GMT

France looking for missing journalists in Iraq: ministry

PARIS Aug 22

France is doing everything it can to locate two French journalists
who have been missing in Iraq for three days, the foreign ministry
said Sunday.

“The search is going on in all directions,” ministry spokeswoman
Maire Masdupuy said.

Christian Chesnot, a reporter for Radio France, and Georges
Malbrunot, a correspondent for Le Figaro newspaper, disappeared early
Friday last week.

They were to have left Baghdad for the central holy city of Najaf,
where US forces are attacking militia loyal to rebel cleric Moqtada
Sadr, but disappeared without making further contact.

Kidnappings of journalists and other foreigners have become common as
insurgents attempt to force countries to disengage from Iraq or
extort money.

The head of the all-news station of Radio France, France Info has
asked French authorities to urge action from US, British, Iraqi and
Red Cross officials to find the missing pair.

“The last time I had Christian Chesnot on the phone was Friday at
7:00 am (0500 GMT). He said ‘I am going to Najaf, it’ll take me four
hours’,” France Info’s editor in chief, Catherine Laurence, said.

The head of the foreign news desk at Le Figaro, Jean-Louis Validire,
said he had last spoken with Malbrunot late Thursday.

“We are increasingly looking at the idea it was an abduction, except
there has still been no claim of responsibilty nor ransom demand,” he

He added that French diplomats were looking at the possibility the
two men were in a hospital in Iraq and were also searching for
Malbrunot’s Armenian fixer who may have been with them.