Chirac holds Philippines responsible for hostages


French President Jacques Chirac Saturday expressed his “lively concern and disagreement” to Philippine President Joseph Estrada after the launch of an army attack on Muslim rebels holding western hostages, saying he held Manila “responsible” for their safety.

“In view of the seriousness of the situation on Jolo and because of the launch of a military operation by the Philippines army, the president tried at 200 a.m. (0030 GMT) to contact President Estrada,” said Chirac’s spokeswoman Catherine Colonna.

“Given his unavailability, the head of state let it be known through our ambassador his very lively concern and disagreement with this dangerous initiative which is contrary to the conclusions of their recent meeting in New York” on the sidelines of the U.N. Millennium Summit, she added.

“The safety of Jean-Jacques Le Garrec and Roland Madura is the absolute priority of France, which considers that the Philippines clearly bears responsibility in this regard,” she said.

Saying “enough is enough,” Estrada ordered the attack on the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas on the southern Philippines island of Jolo early Saturday in a bid to free a U.S. hostage, two Frenchmen, three Malaysians and 16 Filipinos.