Posts tagged ‘French’

July 2, 2011

French X Factor won by Briton

 Matthew Raymond-Barker: ‘I don’t have any idea why I won’

A British student who was knocked out in the early stages of the UK’s X Factor has gone on to win the French version of the show.


Matthew Raymond-Barker, a 22-year-old language student from London, won in the final on Tuesday night.


He decided to give X Factor a second shot while he was studying in Toulouse.


He told BBC World Service that being English in a French competition may have helped him stand out.


Mr Raymond-Barker and his challenger Marina D’Amico, aged just 17, performed alongside international stars Beyonce and Bruno Mars in the final.


He beat Ms D’Amico by just 1,300 votes, and was visibly shocked when the result was announced live on French TV.


He thanked all those who had helped and supported him throughout the competition, before exclaiming, in English, “I don’t believe it!”

Second chance

On the night of the final he sang Tik Tok by Kesha, a medley of Love The Way You Lie and Don’t Stop the Music by Eminem and Rihanna, Vivre Ou Survivre by Daniel Balavoine, and Michael Jackson’s Man in The Mirror.

Though he clearly struggled to hit some of the highest notes on the latter, the jury praised his energy, his presence on stage, and his progress throughout the competition.


Matthew Raymond-Barker sang in both English and French throughout the contest.


He admits his spoken French was “a bit iffy” when he first arrived in the country, but he is now fluent, and thinks the French appreciated the “massive effort” he made with the language.


And he was much more relaxed second time round.


“I thought I’ve got nothing to lose – it’s going to be a good experience whatever happens.


“I just had the aim to go one step further than I did in the UK, but it obviously worked out a lot better!”

Not the ‘lazy’ way

“I was just trying really, really hard to do my best here,” Mr Raymond-Barker told the BBC.


“I’m not the best singer in the world, believe me, but I just try really hard.


“I know people say that X Factor is the really quick way to do it – like it’s the lazy way – but it can show your determination.

Matthew Raymond-Barker performing on stage in the French X Factor. Photo copyright M6/FMF/Abacapress.com The jury praised the British singer’s energy

“I’m not going to pretend it didn’t hurt when I was rejected from the UK competition – I cried on the way back on the Tube!”


So what’s next for Matthew Raymond-Barker?


“I think I’ll be staying in France for the time being, and then hopefully in the future I can spread my wings and fly to many different countries.”


He has won a recording contract and his first single, Vivre Ou Survivre – which he sang last night – will be released on Saturday.

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July 1, 2011

‘Huge ransom paid in Pakistan’ for French hostages

The French government denied paying any ransom, but Western experts say cash for hostages is routine policy in Europe and interpret the public remarks merely as an attempt to discourage future hostage taking. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

KABUL: New details have emerged of how two French hostages in Afghanistan were freed in exchange for a hefty ransom paid in Pakistan and the release of two brothers from a mafia-style, Taliban-linked group.

French journalists Herve Ghesquiere and Stephane Taponier, whose 18-month ordeal made them the longest-held Western hostages in Afghanistan, were released in a painstakingly brokered deal, say experts and Taliban sources.

The French government denied paying any ransom, but Western experts say cash for hostages is routine policy in Europe and interpret the public remarks merely as an attempt to discourage future hostage taking.

The Taliban announced from their fiefdom in southern Afghanistan that there was a prisoner swap for reporter Ghesquiere and cameraman Taponier, but sources close to the case say it was only ever about the money.

“A ransom was paid, an enormous amount, millions of dollars. The money was handed over in Pakistan,” a Taliban member close to central command told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The kidnappers were identified as loyalists of Qari Baryal, one of the main Taliban leaders in Kapisa province where the Frenchmen were kidnapped on December 30, 2009, and also seen as close to criminals.

“The Qari Baryal group is very organised and has a good reputation among the Taliban, but sometimes they go against their ideals, such as taking hostages for ransom,” the Taliban member said.

Afghanistan’s former deputy interior minister General Abdul Hadi Khalid said criminal groups gravitated around Baryal.

A Western expert went further, describing the network as “pure mafia” when talking to AFP on condition of anonymity.

“If you take into account the profile of these ‘Taliban’, it clearly wasn’t a political release and it is highly likely that the ransom was several millions of dollars,” the expert said.

Ghesquiere himself told the BBC that he believed that a deal involving money and prisoners secured his release.

In Paris, an official who dealt with the crisis sought to play down talk of a multi-million dollar ransom, but said “apparently hundreds of thousands of euros rather than millions” had exchanged hands.

According to several Taliban sources contacted by AFP, at least two commanders in the Qari Baryal group, identified as brothers Noor Ullah and Abdullah Haq, were released.

One of these sources said 15 other Taliban fighters from different areas were also released in exchange for the two journalists.

Insurgents never publicly admit to taking cash for hostages, which could alienate their sympathisers and harm their propaganda campaign.

But a number of Western hostage takings have ended with wads of cash being handed over, say foreign and Afghan officials.

One source close to the Taliban told AFP that the money was handed over in the infamous Karkhano smugglers market on the edge of Peshawar, gateway to the tribal belt on the Afghan border.

The tribal belt, which lies outside direct government control, is awash with Taliban strongholds and groups affiliated to al Qaeda.

The guarantor received the money about 10 days before handing it over to the kidnappers when the hostages and their Afghan colleague were released, according to another source very close to the Taliban.

“Qari Baryal always had the upper hand in negotiations,” said the Taliban source.

Everyone interviewed by AFP said that the central Taliban command of supreme leader Mullah Omar, called the Quetta shura, tried to take over, but in vain.

“Kapisa isn’t his area of influence. At the end of the day, the Quetta shura didn’t get its way,” said the Western expert.

“It is the perfect illustration of centralised Taliban command being an illusion,” the expert added.

So if everyone agrees that a sum of money was paid, why did Foreign Minister Alain Juppe insist that France does not pay ransoms?

“No country will ever admit to paying for hostages and especially how much they paid because if the figure gets out, it fixes the price for other hostages,” said the Western expert.

“In Europe, practically everone pays for hostages, but not the British, for example,” said one of his colleagues.

June 30, 2011

French minister Lagarde becomes IMF’s first female head

France saw victory in Finance Minister Christine Lagarde’s nomination as the first female head of the International Monetary Fund. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS: France Tuesday saw victory in Finance Minister Christine Lagarde’s nomination as the first female head of the International Monetary Fund Tuesday, after the shame of the last French holder’s departure.

The government and Lagarde herself also hailed as a triumph for women her nomination, which will spark an imminent reshuffle in President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government.Lagarde, respected for her leadership during Europe’s financial crisis, was chosen to replace fellow French national Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who resigned after his arrest in New York for the alleged sexual assault of a hotel maid.The arrest had embarrassed French politicians and shocked the political world. The leader of the ruling UMP party Jean Francois Cope had warned that the sight of Strauss-Kahn in handcuffs damaged France’s image.In a statement on Tuesday Cope called the choice of Lagarde “a point of pride for France” and “a chance for Europe.”An official in Sarkozy’s office, who asked not to be named, called it “a victory for France,” in comments to AFP.The French presidency has remained virtually silent on the Strauss-Kahn affair, though Environment Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet at the time said France’s image had fallen “victim” to it.Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said in a statement that France “is happy and proud of her success.”Lagarde’s first reaction to the nomination came from her account on the online message service Twitter: “I am honoured and delighted that the Board has entrusted me with the position of MD (managing director) of the IMF!”Shortly afterwards she appeared on TF1 television. Asked if her nomination was a victory for women, she replied “yes”.”In the interview I had with the IMF board there were 24 male administrators, not one single woman,” she said.”When I felt myself being interrogated for three hours by 24 men, I thought it good that things begin to change a bit. We can each bring our difference and our respective qualities.””The French presidency is delighted that a woman is taking up this major international responsibility,” the presidential official added.Lagarde said her priority was to encourage IMF staff after the drama of Strauss-Kahn’s arrest.”The first thing I want to do is rally the teams… give them confidence, courage and energy,” she told TF1.Beyond that, she is faced with the task of helping settle a crisis in the eurozone as it scrambles to prevent Greece defaulting on its debt.A French cabinet reshuffle is expected imminently. Sarkozy and his Prime Minister Francois Fillon held a 20-minute meeting at the Elysee presidential palace on Tuesday evening after the IMF announcement.Fillon left without commenting. An Elysee official said Lagarde would attend the weekly cabinet meeting on Wednesday morning as usual.Budget minister Francois Baroin, Higher Education Minister Valerie Pecresse and Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire are tipped as favourites to take over the key finance ministry post.Lagarde meanwhile said she was unfazed by a judicial case hanging over her linked to accusations of conflict of interest.In May a prosecutor called for a probe into her handling of a high-profile dispute that resulted in a 240-million-euro ($345-million) government payout to flamboyant tycoon Bernard Tapie.But judges have put off until July 8 the decision on whether a full investigation is merited.”I am totally calm. I always acted with respect for the law,” Lagarde said Tuesday.”I entered politics scarcely five years ago and I have learned and served a lot,” she said on TF1, recalling her days as a teenage synchronized swimming champion.”I am a competitive swimmer and when it is hard, when you get bad timings, you start again and train again and get back into the pool. That’s what I have done also in my life.”fz-npk-rlp/boc