Royal accused of blunder over Chirac Africa policy

14th February 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 14, 2007 (AFP) - France's Segolene Royal stood accused of a fresh campaign blunder Wednesday after one of her top advisers disowned a text in which she harshly attacks President Jacques Chirac's Africa policy.

PARIS, Feb 14, 2007 (AFP) - France's Segolene Royal stood accused of a fresh campaign blunder Wednesday after one of her top advisers disowned a text in which she harshly attacks President Jacques Chirac's Africa policy.

 In a letter to appear in a French Catholic magazine Thursday, the Socialist candidate accuses Chirac of harming France's image in Africa by nurturing "personal friendships" with the leaders of its "most questionable regimes".

The text's publication coincides with the start of an Africa-France summit in southern France, set to be Chirac's swansong on the international stage.

Royal's cabinet director Christophe Chantepy told AFP late Tuesday that it "was sent out due to a technical error" and had "absolutely not been validated in its present form by Ms Royal".

Chantepy insisted Royal "has consistently refrained from making personal attacks throughout this campaign".

But Wednesday morning, after the magazine carrying the article had gone to press, the Socialist Party issued a statement endorsing Royal's attacks on Chirac, in exactly the same terms.

"By privileging personal friendships and the support for dictatorial and corrupt regimes at the expense of the general interest, Jacques Chirac's policy towards Africa has harmed our country's image on the continent," it said.

"The multitude of military interventions in support of supposedly friendly regimes, in Chad or the Central African Republic, diverts us from the development goals that should be those of French cooperation."

The apparent confusion in the Socialist ranks drew an immediate attack from supporters of Royal's right-wing rival, Nicolas Sarkozy.

Dominique Paille, a deputy for Sarkozy's UMP party, said the mix-up provided "yet more patent proof of her amateurism", calling it "one more thing to add to the list of the Socialist candidate's gaffes".

Contacted by AFP, the editor of Temoignage Chretien insisted the text had been agreed on with a senior member of Royal's staff and that its publication would go ahead as planned.

"I don't understand what happened. This is a text that was signed by Segolene Royal, and it was agreed to publish it with the consent of one of her senior advisers," said Noel Bouttier.

"There was no problem at all. It was all done by the book, we even sent the text back with some suggested cuts, that were approved by Royal's advisor."

Sarkozy has pulled ahead in the race for the presidency since his nomination as the governing party's candidate in mid-January.

Despite a detailed policy speech at the weekend that was intended to revive her flagging campaign, two new polls show Royal still trailing six to seven points behind Sarkozy in a presidential run-off vote.

Copyright AFP

Subject: Frenchnews, Presidential election, Segolene Royal

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