Jun 23 2013

Hollande defends "conditional" Qatar investments

Hollande defends Photo Credit:Reuters/Mohamad Dabbouss

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013

DOHA, Qatar (AFP)--French President Francois Hollande said Sunday that his country does not reject Qatari investments, but stressed that there are certain "conditions" and "rules", during a visit to the gas-rich Gulf state.

"We do not reject Qatari investments in France but we are saying that there are conditions that must be respected... and rules that must be understood," said Hollande, who arrived in Doha on Saturday.

He made the comments to reporters in the sidelines of a visit to a large building site run by Bouygues, a French industrial group.

Qatar has invested around 12 billion euros ($16 billion) in France during the past five years, mainly in properties, hotels and big firms, sparking controversy.

Qatari investors have bought Paris Saint-Germain football club and acquired 3% of energy giant Total as well as stakes in building firm Vinci and in media group Lagardere.

"It's in the interest of France to be present in this region and to make it understood that it can attract investments, but I say this under certain conditions," he added.

Qatar had postponed launching a fund for entrepreneurs from France's deprived suburbs until after the presidential election last May to prevent it becoming a political football. The project remains frozen.

Losing far-right candidate Marine Le Pen attacked Qatar for investing in what she said were mainly Muslim areas of French cities and said unnamed foreign countries wanted to develop Islamic fundamentalism in France.

The investment was worth EUR50 million.

But on Sunday, Hollande said that "this is what was announced before my election. I would say what's best is to create a joint French-Qatari investment fund."

The EUR300-million fund is aimed at helping medium and small companies "in our neighbourhoods," said Hollande.

"Qatari investments are welcome and could cover all fields," he noted, but the "priority is for industry and services," he told the Franco-Qatari Economic Forum.

"Your investments must be made in cooperation with us... in the area we choose," he told the Qataris.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

23-06-13 1048GMT

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