French politicians deny reports of Chirac ill-health

30th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

French politicians on Sunday played down newspaper reports that former president Jacques Chirac was in weak health and losing his memory ahead of his trial on corruption charges.

The weekly Journal du Dimanche had quoted unnamed friends of Chirac, 78, as saying he had memory lapses and that his wife Bernadette feared he had Alzheimer's disease. He had a minor stroke in 2005.

Chirac is due to stand trial in March and April over allegations that public funds were used to pay salaries to his political allies when he was mayor of Paris in the 1990s. A procedural hearing in the case is due on Monday.

Le Monde newspaper also raised the question of Chirac's health in a report last week and said his lawyers may ask for the trial to be postponed.

A former minister in Chirac's government, Christian Jacob, rejected the claims as "shocking and unfounded".

"Jacques Chirac is in good shape intellectually. We recently had a long discussion about regulating raw-materials markets," Jacob told AFP, one of several politicians to denounce the reports.

"In my recent meetings with him, I did not observe anything that made me think he had a health problem," said Patrick Ollier, a junior minister in the current French government.

Chirac was president from 1995 to 2007, during which time he enjoyed immunity from prosecution. He has denied having any knowledge of corrupt payments.

The Paris city hall withdrew its civil suit against him when he agreed to pay it 500,000 euros ($680,000) in a settlement jointly with the UMP, the party of Chirac and current President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The avuncular right-wing ex-president regularly polls as the nation's favourite politician.

© 2011 AFP

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