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Paris may seek Moussaoui transfer to France

By Staff
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PARIS, May 4 (Reuters) France may ask the United States to allow September 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui to serve his life prison sentence in a French jail, the Foreign Ministry said today.

Moussaoui, a 37-year old French citizen of Moroccan origin, was today sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of release, a day after a jury spared his life and rejected US government arguments that he should be executed.

France and the United States signed two agreements in the 1980s about the transfer of convicts. Moussaoui's mother and his lawyer want him to be allowed to serve his sentence in France.

''A possible demand for transferring Zacarias Moussaoui could be looked at within this framework,'' Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei said at an electronic press briefing.

''But in any case, we have to wait for the American justice system to provide a definitive sentence and to define the conditions of the sentence,'' he added.

Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy later said in a statement that he had instructed the French embassy in Washington to ''remain very attentive to the situation of Zacarias Moussaoui.'' He made no comment about the verdict and did not mention the possibility of repatriating him.

US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales declined to say whether Moussaoui could be extradited to France.

''I don't think it's appropriate at this time to comment on that,'' he told a news conference in Vienna today after talks with European Union and Russian counterparts on security cooperation.

''Obviously there's been no formal request made, and with respect to a request by the French government, we would of course consider it at that time,'' he said.

The jury found Moussaoui's actions had not resulted in the deaths of about 3,000 people on September 11 -- a central part of the government's argument that he should face the death penalty.

Moussaoui's mother, Aisha el Wafi, said her son would be living like a ''rat in a hole'' and accused France of siding with the United States during the trial.

''I feel there is a part of me that is dead, buried with my son who will be buried for the rest of his life at the age of 37 for things he hasn't done,'' she told a news conference in Paris.

''The whole world knows it now. France knows it too but France prefers to please the Americans anyway.'' France provided information about Moussaoui to the United States on condition that it could not be used in a sentence leading to the death penalty, which it opposes.

REUTERS PM RN2132

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