Chirac bids farewell to presidential staff

2nd May 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 2, 2007 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac, who leaves office in two weeks after 12 years in power, bid a solemn farewell to staff at the Elysee presidential palace on Wednesday.

PARIS, May 2, 2007 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac, who leaves office in two weeks after 12 years in power, bid a solemn farewell to staff at the Elysee presidential palace on Wednesday.

Speaking to several hundred staff members and advisors gathered at the Elysee palace in presence of his wife Bernadette, the 74-year-old Chirac urged them to "do honour to France and the French people" under his successor.

"As I prepare to serve France and the French people in a different way, I fully measure the extent to which you helped me fulfil my mission," said Chirac, who officially stands down on May 16 at midnight.

"In a few days the French people will make a choice that is essential for their future," he said, four days from Sunday's presidential run-off between right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy, 52, and the Socialist Segolene Royal, 53.

"Whatever choice they make, you will have a major role to play in ensuring the continuity of the state."

Chirac, who ruled out seeking a third term in March, has given his official backing to Sarkozy, the candidate for the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) and frontrunner to succeed him.

But the two men have a stormy political relationship: once the president's protege, Sarkozy campaigned on a pledge to break with his record in power, insisting he is not Chirac's natural "heir".

Chirac's departure will end a four-decade career and mark the end of an era in France, as he hands over to a younger rival on the left or right.

The veteran leader, who spearheaded worldwide opposition to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, has indicated he would like to chair an international foundation, promoting causes close to his heart such as the environment and non-European cultures.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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