Citizen Chirac sets sights on foundation

14th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 14, 2007 (AFP) - Life after the Elysee for Jacques Chirac will revolve around setting up a new foundation devoted to saving the planet and relieving poverty, unless allegations of corruption come back to haunt him.

PARIS, May 14, 2007 (AFP) - Life after the Elysee for Jacques Chirac will revolve around setting up a new foundation devoted to saving the planet and relieving poverty, unless allegations of corruption come back to haunt him.

The 74-year-old leader is stepping down on Wednesday after 12 years in office and will welcome his successor Nicolas Sarkozy to the Elysee presidential palace during a formal ceremony.

Chirac will show Sarkozy around his new office, hand over the nuclear codes and then be driven off with his wife Bernadette to a chic apartment on Paris' Left Bank where he will begin life as a private citizen.

In his final days in the Elysee, Chirac laid the groundwork for a new foundation, modelled after those set up by Mikhail Gorbachev, Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela, to promote causes close to his heart: protecting the environment and sustainable development.

But Chirac's immediate concern may be the prospect of being hauled in for questioning by a judge investigating an illegal party-funding scheme that dates back to his time as mayor of Paris, more than a decade ago.

Under French law, Chirac's presidential immunity expires on June 16, a month after he leaves office.

A justice official told AFP in March that it was "most probable" that Chirac would be questioned as a witness in the probe into a kickback scheme in which workers for Chirac's former party, the Rally for the Republic (RPR), had salaries paid for by Paris city hall or companies that won contracts there.

The so-called "fake jobs" scandal led in 2003 to a series of prosecutions of senior RPR members, including Chirac's close ally Alain Juppe who received a suspended jail term in 2004 and a year-long ban on public office.

Sarkozy, whose bid for the presidency was endorsed by Chirac, last month angrily denied a media report that he had struck a deal to shield Chirac from the corruption probe after he leaves office.

The Canard Enchaine satirical weekly reported that Sarkozy had agreed to protect Chirac in exchange for his backing in the presidential election that he won against Socialist Segolene Royal.

Rather than a specific amnesty for corruption, Sarkozy would introduce a provision as part of a new crime-fighting bill that would set a 10-year limit on the time a judge has to close a case, the weekly said.

That measure to be submitted to parliament in the fall would close the book on three corruption cases that date back more than 10 years, when Chirac was mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995, according to the Canard Enchaine.

It is also in the fall that Chirac is scheduled to officially launch his new foundation as part of his pledge to serve France "in a different manner."

Former International Monetary Fund head Michel Camdessus has taken the lead in setting up the Jacques Chirac Foundation, saying in an interview to Le Monde that the retired president could be "a locomotive" on such issues as poverty in Africa, development, the environment and the dialogue between cultures.

As former head of state, Chirac automatically becomes a member of the Constitutional Council, France's highest constitutional authority, alongside Valery Giscard d'Estaing and nine other appointed members.

He will also be given an office and, according to the weekly L'Express, receive a pension totalling some 19,000 euros (26,000 dollars) per month.

The Chiracs' apartment, which has a view across the River Seine to the Louvre museum, is being lent by the family of former Lebanese prime minister Rafic Hariri, a close personal friend of the outgoing president who was murdered in 2005.

The couple also own a chateau in the central region of Correze.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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