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French hostages, freed in Afghanistan after 547 days, arrive home

By the CNN Wire Staff
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French journalists arrive home
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Ghesquiere: "This is the moment that we had dreamed about"
  • The journalists say they had remained optimistic they would be freed
  • France does not pay ransoms, the foreign minister says
  • Nine French hostages are being held in Africa and the Middle East, he says

Paris (CNN) -- Two French journalists held for 547 days in Afghanistan arrived home Thursday, stepping into the arms of relatives and friends after they landed at an airbase near Paris.

"This is the moment that we had dreamed about, imagined, fantasized about," said Herve Ghesquiere, one of the two journalists for France 3 Television.

Ghesquiere, co-worker Stephane Taponier and their interpreter Reza Din were captured on December 30, 2009.

The journalists said they had remained optimistic they would be freed throughout their ordeal.

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They left Afghanistan on Wednesday evening aboard a French government plane, authorities said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy thanked his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai "for the management of this crisis and all those who participated in the liberation of the hostages."

The three were released Wednesday, and landed at an airbase near Paris a day later.

Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said France does not pay ransoms.

CNN affiliate France 2 asked Juppe whether he would reveal the information if a ransom had been paid.

"There are cases where the reason of state prevails over other considerations, and I think nothing should be done that would threaten the process of freeing other hostages," Juppe said.

Nine French hostages are being held in Africa and the Middle East, he said.

Taliban militants had threatened to kill the journalists if several demands were not met, including the release of a number of detainees held by France.

It was unclear whether the demands had been met, but French officials said their strategy in Afghanistan or elsewhere would not change.

CNN's Richard Greene and Alan Silverleib contributed to this report.

 
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