French foreign minister confirms informal contacts with Hamas

France has had informal contacts with Hamas, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Monday. Kouchner, speaking on Europe-1 radio, was confirming a report in the daily Le Figaro that quoted a retired diplomat as saying he met with Hamas leaders a month ago. Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by the European Union and the United States. France has had contacts with Hamas leaders "for several months," Kouchner said, adding that France was not in formal negotiations. "These are not relations, they are contacts. We must be able to talk if we want to play a role," the minister said. A former ambassador to Iraq, Yves Aubin de la Messuziere, told Le Figaro that he had met a month ago in Gaza with Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar and the organization's prime Minister, Ismael Haniyeh. Apparently, de la Messuziere was acting on behalf of the French government.