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French foreign minister to meet with Clinton

France's foreign minister heads on Thursday to Washington for his first meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

world Updated: Feb 05, 2009 10:49 IST

France's foreign minister heads on Thursday to Washington for his first meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Bernard Kouchner is set to become the latest European envoy to meet with Washington's top diplomat after she hosted the foreign ministers of Britain and Germany on Wednesday.

The three European powers have been at the forefront of international efforts to ensure that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons _ an issue likely to be on the agenda on Thursday, a French Foreign Ministry official said.

Other hotspots like Iraq, the Middle East, Darfur and Afghanistan are likely to be discussed, the officials said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. France has around 3,300 troops alongside NATO and US forces in the Afghan theater.

Kouchner is likely to be eager to get back to his job after working on Wednesday to tamp down allegations in a new book in France that threatens to damage his popular image as a champion of the poor and the sick.

The book by Pierre Pean, whose title translates as "The World According to K," floats a string of insinuations against Kouchner, including allegations of political interference and financial misconduct.

Addressing the book during question time on Wednesday at the National Assembly, Kouchner lashed out against "a book that, line after line, makes me out to be a foreign agent, a bad Frenchman of questionable origins _ grasping at profit."

Kouchner, a trained gastroenterologist, is a co-founder of the Nobel Prize-winning aid group Doctors Without Borders. He served as a Socialist minister for humanitarian action from 1988 to 1993, leading missions to places such as Bosnian prison camps and Somali emergency kitchens.

Among other claims, the book alleges that Kouchner interfered with a French investigation into Rwandan leaders over that country's 1994 genocide, as well as his business affairs in west Africa. Kouchner said the book has sought to cast him as personifying "the counter-image of France." The book's cover shows a photo of Kouchner arm-in-arm with former President George W Bush, who is unpopular in France.