UPDATE 3-PM says France "at war" with al Qaeda over hostage

Tue Jul 27, 2010 1:11pm GMT

* Fillon says France will intensify fight against al Qaeda

* Policy still to negotiate with hostage takers if possible

* Socialists back Sarkozy's handling of affair

* Mali said irked by French behaviour

(Updates with Kouchner talks in Mali)

By Paul Taylor

PARIS, July 27 (Reuters) - France said on Monday it was at war with al Qaeda's North African branch and will intensify military support for governments in the region combating the Islamist fighters who killed an elderly French hostage.

But Prime Minister Francois Fillon said Paris would continue to negotiate with hostage-takers whenever possible to save the lives of French citizens, provided their captors did not cross a "red line" by endangering their lives.

He was speaking in a radio interview a day after President Nicolas Sarkozy confirmed that Michel Germaneau, 78, kidnapped in Niger and held by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, had been killed following a failed French rescue mission in Mali.   Continued...

Powered by Reuters AlertNet. AlertNet provides news, images and insight from the world's disasters and conflicts and is brought to you by Reuters Foundation.