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France rejects Bin Laden talks call

France's new foreign minister has rejected a reported message from al Qaida's North Africa branch saying Paris should negotiate with Osama bin Laden over the fate of five French hostages seized from an African mining town.

"France cannot accept that its policies are dictated from abroad by anyone at all," Michele Alliot-Marie said.

"France is doing all in its power so that all hostages, wherever they are, are freed safe and sound," she said.

Ms Alliot-Marie, named foreign minister this week in a government reshuffle, made no other comment and did not refer directly to bin Laden or al Qaida.

The government is studying an audio excerpt by a man identified as the leader of al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, broadcast by the Al-Jazeera news channel.

"Any negotiations must be done with Osama bin Laden and according to his conditions," said a voice described as that of Abu Mossab Abdelouadoud, who is also known as Abdelmalek Droukdel and under other names.

He urged French troops to pull out of Afghanistan to ensure the safety of the French hostages.

The Foreign Ministry is working to verify the message's authenticity, a ministry official said. President Nicolas Sarkozy's office did not immediately respond to the audio message.

The government had said previously it was willing to speak to the group's Algeria-based North African wing in order to find a solution to the crisis.

The French hostages, as well as a Togolese and a Madagascar national, were kidnapped on September 16 while they were sleeping in the uranium mining town of Arlit.

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