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France

Sarkozy welcomes release of Franco-Israeli Gilad Shalit

media Sarkozy smiles as the poster comes down. Reuters/Eric Feferberg

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has welcomed the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who also has French nationality through his grandmother.

Sarkozy said Shalit's liberation was a "huge relief for France", and that he hoped that the former captive would soon travel to France.

The French president also said he thought that Shalit's French nationality was important during his captivity."The fact that Gilad was recognised as being French from the beginning contributed greatly, I think, to keeping him alive", Sarkozy said on a visit to the  Mediterranean city of Nice.

Shalit was captured by Gaza-based Palestinian militants in 2006, and handed over to Israel on Tuesday in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

Sarkozy also expressed hope that talks might resume between Israelis and Palestinians, and that some people from the West Bank currently detained in Israel might soon be able to return to the West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority last week applauded France's efforts to obtain Shalit's release and said Paris should also help secure the release of Franco-Palestinian Salah Hamouri who has been jailed by Israel since 2005.

He was arrested after accusations that he was plotting to assassinate a rabbi, a charge he denies.

 

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