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PARIS – Roger Auque, a prominent French journalist and diplomat, died in Paris on Monday at the age of 58 after a long battle with brain cancer.
He served as France’s ambassador to Eritrea from 2009 to 2012. He had a close relationship with Israel’s ambassador to Asmara, Guy Feldman, who came to visit him at Val de Grâce, a military hospital in Paris, during his illness.
Auque launched his career as a freelance reporter in Lebanon, and was at that time (the late ’80s) close to Christians from the Phalange movement.
In January 1987, he left his hotel to look for a taxi, and became one of the first Western reporters to be taken hostage by Hezbollah. He was released the following November, after financial negotiations conducted with the Shi’ite terrorist organization by French president Jacques Chirac and his interior minister, Charles Pasqua.
Auque “discovered God” after a jailer gave him a Bible.
He became a devoted Catholic and described himself as proud to be a “friend of Israel.”
Auque was close also to Uri Lubrani, who from 1983 to 2000 was Israel’s governor (coordinator) in South Lebanon. He was also close to Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman, who wrote a chapter on Auque’s captivity in his book The Secret War With Iran: The 30-Year Clandestine Struggle Against the World’s Most Dangerous Terrorist Power
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Jean-Louis Normandin, then a journalist for Antenne 2 TV (now France 2), was in Hezbollah captivity with Auque. Normandin told Le Parisien newspaper after hearing of Auque death: “We met in the trunk of a car in Beirut, later we have been freed together, on the same evening..... He was a charmer...always keep smiling... [with] sincerity, enthusiasm, energy.”
Following Auque’s release he was sent to Rome by RTL radio, then covered Africa, the Mideast and Yugoslavia. He also covered Israel for years for a series of magazines – Paris Match, Le Figaro Magazine and VSD.
During the Second Gulf War, he was a correspondent in Baghdad, reporting also for Yediot Aharonot
, under the pseudonym Pierre Baudry (using his mother’s maiden name).
He remained in Baghdad until 2006, and then went back to Beirut for two years, before starting to dream about another life, of politics and diplomacy.
This son of a Gaulist father and a Communist mother had strong right-wing convictions.
He won a Paris council seat in 2008, representing the UMP.
Auque authored two books: one on his detention by Hezbollah, and one more general book, which had a chapter on IAF navigator Ron Arad, who went missing in action in Lebanon in 1986 after his plane was shot down.
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