France beefs up Africa, Middle East embassy security

PARIS Wed May 22, 2013 2:03pm BST

French Minister for Foreign Affairs Laurent Fabius speaks during a media conference in Tunis May 14, 2013. REUTERS/Anis Mili

French Minister for Foreign Affairs Laurent Fabius speaks during a media conference in Tunis May 14, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Anis Mili

PARIS (Reuters) - France will invest about 20 million euros to increase security for diplomats and embassies in the Middle East and Africa after its mission in Libya was targeted by a car bomb in April, the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

Spokesman Philippe Lalliot confirmed an email sent by Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius to staff on Tuesday saying the measure had to be taken following the rising number of serious international crises and threats emanating from them.

"This plan takes into consideration the change in threats," Lalliot told a daily news briefing.

"As the minister indicated, a general programme to improve security of our missions has now been established, which will concern primarily Africa and the Middle East."

France sent troops into Mali in January after Bamako asked for help in driving back Islamist rebels who controlled parts of the north and were moving south.

The military operation in the former French colony cranked up tensions in North Africa, with Islamist radicals threatening to strike back at French and Western interests.

Although nobody claimed last month's bombing at France's embassy in Tripoli, it was the first attack to directly target France since the Mali intervention.

Lalliot said the funds would be used to buy security equipment, vehicles as well as increasing the budget for guards and reinforcement missions.

It will be financed in part by the sale of overseas real estate assets owned by France, he said.

France spends more than 500 million euros a year on managing almost 2 million square metres of property and land outside the country. The Foreign Ministry has increasingly been selling property in an effort to beef up its budget as the government looks to slash ministerial spending to meet deficit targets.

It raised more than 120 million euros through sales in 2011, including its consular building in Hong Kong for about 50 million euros. ($1 = 0.7769 euros)

(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Alison Williams)