RIYADH: Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah held wide-ranging talks with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner at his palace here yesterday. The talks focused on key regional and international issues, including Iran, Iraq, Palestine and Sudan.

Addressing a press conference, Kouchner said his talks with the king dealt with the arrest warrant against Sudan’s President Omar Bashir, Palestinian reconciliation, upcoming Lebanese parliamentary elections and the G-20 meeting in London.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Nizar Obaid Madani and French Ambassador Bertrand Besancenot attended the talks.

The French minister, who was on a daylong visit to the Kingdom, urged Iran to use the “new opportunity” created by the US administration of President Barack Obama to mend ties, which would eventually contribute to solving many issues. “There is a new opportunity on the horizon for negotiations, especially after the arrival of the new US administration,” he said.

Kouchner, who handed over a message from President Nicolas Sarkozy to King Abdullah, said his talks with the king were candid. The talks also focused on bilateral issues, he said.

The French minister said the two sides pledged to work together and exert more efforts to solve global financial crisis and contribute to the success of next month’s G-20 summit in London.

Kouchner also met Minister of Trade and Industry Abdullah Zainal Alireza. During the meeting, the two ministers discussed ways and means of expanding commercial and industrial cooperation.

The French minister’s visit coincided with the visit of Sudanese Vice President Ali Othman Taha to Riyadh.

France and Saudi Arabia have maintained cordial political and economic relations, with Paris accounting for a big percentage of foreign direct investment inflow into the Kingdom. But, the French position on Sudan, of late, has been seen as controversial by a section of the press.

In fact, Sudan’s Foreign Ministry recently summoned the French ambassador to Khartoum after a French official was quoted as saying that Paris was pushing Qatar to arrest President Bashir, when he visits Doha later this month. But, Paris “formally denied” the claim.

King Abdullah, meanwhile, received the Sudanese vice president separately at his palace. Taha handed to the king a message from President Bashir.

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