Chretien in farewell visit to France

1st December 2003, Comments 0 comments

OTTAWA, Nov 28 (AFP) - Prime Minister Jean Chretien leaves Ottawa next Wednesday for visits to Nigeria and France, his final overseas tour before he steps down as prime minister on December 12.

OTTAWA, Nov 28 (AFP) - Prime Minister Jean Chretien leaves Ottawa next Wednesday for visits to Nigeria and France, his final overseas tour before he steps down as prime minister on December 12.

Senior Canadian officials said Friday that his visit to Nigeria - for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) - was very important because, as one of the officials said, "the prime minister is passionate about Africa."

Chretien will leave Ottawa Wednesday to arrive in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, for the meeting of the leaders of more than 50 Commonwealth countries, mainly former British colonies.

He will leave Abuja on December 8 for a visit to Paris, at the invitation of French President Jacques Chirac.

Officially, that visit is for the launch of a "Canada-France 1604-2004" celebration to commemorate next years four hundredth anniversary of France settling Canada.

But privately officials say the real reason for the visit is for Chirac to have an opportunity to give a slap-up banquet to commemorate Chretien's 10 years in office.

On December 10, Chretien will arrive back in Canada in the late afternoon giving him one full working day before handing over his office to his successor as leader of the governing Liberal Party, Paul Martin, on December 12.

Briefing journalists on the formal aspects of the Commonwealth meeting, senior officials said one of the main topics will remain the continuing crisis in Zimbabwe which is currently suspended from the 54-nation group.

© AFP

                                                                Subject: French news

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