Dominique de Villepin, down but not out

19th December 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Dec 19, 2006 (AFP) - French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, once considered a contender to succeed Jacques Chirac as president in 2007 elections, joked Tuesday about the nose-dive his political career has taken in recent months.

PARIS, Dec 19, 2006 (AFP) - French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, once considered a contender to succeed Jacques Chirac as president in 2007 elections, joked Tuesday about the nose-dive his political career has taken in recent months.

On a visit to a child-minding centre in the southern Paris suburb of Rungis, he replied to a pregnant woman who asked whether he would help her out in a year's time: "Me? I'm not going to have much to do in a year's time, so, believe me, I'm ready and willing."

Asked about the comment, he told reporters: "What I see today — these women, these mothers, these children — yes, that makes me want to take the time to look after real things and real life."

It wasn't the first time Villepin has alluded to the apparent dead-end facing him.

Last month, he told students in the northern city of Lille that he saw himself soon giving "courses in international relations".

Villepin, 53, was once France's high-flying foreign minister who made a name for himself on the world stage when he eloquently argued in the United Nations against the ill-fated US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq.

He was subsequently seen as a leading candidate to become president, a scenario bolstered by his being mentored by Chirac — but weakened by the fact that he had never been elected to public office.

His botched attempt to push through modest labour reforms early this year resulted in nationwide street protests and a humiliating climbdown that has overshadowed his reputation in France ever since.

Now, despite speculation he might still try to mount a rogue presidential bid, polls suggest he would fail to muster much support.

The frontrunner in his ruling conservative UMP party is Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who has long been a bitter political rival to both Villepin and Chirac.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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