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Friday, 27 September 2019

Former French president Jacques Chirac dies aged 86

The former French president Jacques Chirac has died aged 86, his son-in-law has confirmed.

He led the country between 1995 and 2007.

Mr Chirac was the first president of the country to acknowledge France's role in the Holocaust, and he defiantly opposed the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.
France entered into the single European currency under his presidency, and compulsory military service was abolished.
Mr Chirac also cut the presidential term of office from seven to five years.
He was nicknamed "Le Bulldozer" early in his career for his determination and ambition.
As president he was a consummate global diplomat but he failed to reform the economy.
He was also unable to defuse tensions between police and minority youths that exploded into riots across France in 2005.
Frederic Salat-Baroux, Mr Chirac's son-in-law, said he died "peacefully among his loved ones" on Thursday.
He did not give the cause of the death, but the former president has had repeated health problems since leaving office in 2007.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson paid tribute to Mr Chirac on Twitter.
He wrote: "Jacques Chirac was a formidable political leader who shaped the destiny of his nation in a career that spanned four decades.
"His loss will be felt throughout France, across the generations."
Mr Chirac was long the standard-bearer of France's conservative right and mayor of Paris for nearly two decades.
He is also said to have showed courage and statesmanship during his presidency.
In what may have been his finest hour, he crushed the myth of France's innocence in the persecution of Jews during World War Two.
He said on 16 July 1995: "Yes, the criminal folly of the occupiers was seconded by the French, by the French state.
"France, the land of the enlightenment and human rights... delivered those it protects to their executioners."
Mr Chirac also embraced European unity, calling it an "art", and raged at the French ahead of their "no" vote in a 2005 referendum on the European constitution meant to fortify the EU.
He said: "If you want to shoot yourself in the foot, do it, but after don't complain.
"It's stupid, I'm telling you."
Mr Chirac was personally and politically humiliated by the defeat.
His popularity didn't fully recover until after he left office in 2007, handing power to protege-turned-rival Nicolas Sarkozy.
Mr Chirac ultimately became one of the French's favourite political figures, often praised for his down-to-earth human touch rather than his political achievements.
In his 40 years in public life, he was derided by critics as opportunistic and impulsive.
But as president, he embodied the fierce independence so treasured in France, as he championed the United Nations (UN) as a counterweight to US global dominance.
He also defended agricultural subsidies over protests by the European Union.
Mr Chirac was also remembered for another trait valued by the French - his style.
Tall, dapper and charming, Mr Chirac was a well-bred bon vivant who openly enjoyed the trappings of power - luxury trips abroad and life in a government-owned palace.
His slicked-back hair and ski-slope nose were favourites of political cartoonists.
Yet he retained a common touch that worked wonders on the campaign trail, exuding warmth when kissing babies and enthusiasm when farmers displayed their tractors.
His preferences were for western movies, beer and "tete de veau" - calf's head.
Mr Chirac won the presidency in 1995 after two failed attempts, ending 14 years of socialist rule.

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