French FM apologizes to Iraqi premier for saying he should be replaced

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner apologized Monday to Iraq's prime minister for saying he should be replaced - then suggested the embattled premier was already on his way out. Iraqi Premier Nouri al-Maliki had demanded an apology from Kouchner for comments made by the French foreign minister after his surprise visit to Baghdad last week. While Iraq's president welcomed Kouchner's overtures, Kouchner was later quoted by Newsweek magazine as saying the Iraqi government was "not functioning." He was also was quoted as saying that he told US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that there was strong support in Iraq for ousting al-Maliki, telling her, "he's got to be replaced." On Monday, Kouchner opened a major foreign policy speech with discussion of his trip to Iraq. He said he focused on Iraq to summarize the challenges facing that country and the world, "not to congratulate myself for the Iraqis welcoming this initiative or to answer the objections raised during the visit - in particular the ones coming from the prime minister, to whom I apologized this morning and who might be leaving us shortly."