Chirac bids emotional farewell to France

16th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 16, 2007 (AFP) - Outgoing French President Jacques Chirac on Tuesday bid an emotional farewell to the nation after 12 years in office, urging the people to remain "united and together" under his successor Nicolas Sarkozy.

PARIS, May 16, 2007 (AFP) - Outgoing French President Jacques Chirac on Tuesday bid an emotional farewell to the nation after 12 years in office, urging the people to remain "united and together" under his successor Nicolas Sarkozy.

"Tomorrow I will hand over the powers I have exercised in your name to Nicolas Sarkozy, our new president of the Republic," Chirac, 74, said in a brief televised address from the Elysee palace.

"I shall do so with pride in duty accomplished and also with great faith in the future of our country.

"This evening I want to tell you what a great honour it has been to serve you. I want to tell you how strong is the bond that from the depths of my heart unites me with every man and woman among you," he said.

"I want to say how great is my faith in you, and how great is my faith in France.

"I know that the new president Nicolas Sarkozy will be eager to lead our country further down the road of the future, and my best wishes go with him on this most demanding and beautiful of missions," he said.

Sarkozy, the 52 year-old rightwinger who won elections on May 6 against the Socialist Segolene Royal, will succeed to the presidency at 11:00 am (0900 GMT) Wednesday in a hand-over ceremony with Chirac at the Elysee.

The outgoing leader will pass on the launch codes for France's nuclear arsenal and brief Sarkozy on current agenda items before leaving the presidential palace for the last time.

The new president's first function will be to rekindle the flame at the tomb of the unknown soldier beneath the Arc de Triomphe in accordance with tradition, and lay a wreath at a statue of General Charles de Gaulle.

He will then fly to Berlin for a meeting with German chancellor Angela Merkel, where the future of the European Union will be the main issue for discussion.

On Thursday, Sarkozy is expected to name his election campaign manager Francois Fillon as prime minister, with a full list of government members to be released later in the day or Friday.

The new president has been conducting widespread consultations in a bid to broaden the political base of his first cabinet, with several left-wing and centrist politicians approached about a possible job.

Hotly tipped for the foreign minister's post is the world-renowned humanitarian and founder of the Doctors Without Borders charity Bernard Kouchner -- a Socialist Party member who was on Royal's campaign team.

Seven or eight of the 15-member government are expected to be women -- the first time a French cabinet has had gender parity.

The government will have only caretaker status ahead of parliamentary elections in June -- where Sarkozy hopes to win a clear majority in the National Assembly to push through his programme of radical economic and social change.

After the official handover, Chirac and his wife Bernadette will be driven to a Paris apartment that is being lent by the family of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, a close personal friend of the Chiracs who was murdered two years ago.

Chirac's last official function Tuesday was to receive the resignation of Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin. Once named as a possible presidential contender, Villepin fell from grace last year in a wave of public protests against his youth labour reforms.

Villepin was to remain technically in charge of the government until his replacement by Fillon on Thursday.

In his address to the nation, Chirac confirmed that he planned to set up a foundation devoted to "dialogue between cultures and sustainable development."


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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