Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew pays tribute to Chirac

13th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

SINGAPORE, March 13, 2007 (AFP) - Singapore's elder statesman Lee Kuan Yew paid tribute Tuesday to outgoing French President Jacques Chirac and urged the French people to accept economic reforms in order to stay competitive.

SINGAPORE, March 13, 2007 (AFP) - Singapore's elder statesman Lee Kuan Yew paid tribute Tuesday to outgoing French President Jacques Chirac and urged the French people to accept economic reforms in order to stay competitive.

"Under his presidency, France developed close economic and cultural ties with East Asia," Lee, 83, said in a statement to AFP two days after Chirac, 74, announced his retirement following a 40-year career in French politics.

Lee served as Singapore's prime minister from 1959 to 1990 and remains an adviser to the cabinet led by his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. He holds the special title of Minister Mentor.

He is seen as one of Asia's most influential statesmen and regularly conferred in Paris with Chirac, whom he first met in the mid-1970s when the latter was prime minister under then president Valery Giscard d'Estaing.

"He had a keen interest in Japan and, next, China. His interests range beyond politics and economics into the arts and culture of Japan, China, (Southeast Asia) and many other developing countries," Lee said.

On Chirac's legacy, Lee said: "President Chirac and his government have made serious efforts at reforming the French economy to meet the challenges of globalisation. The French people have been reluctant to accept these reforms.

"They have to be persuaded to make the changes to enable France to compete in a globalised world where workers have increased by over two billion people from China, India and Eastern Europe."

The conservative French leader announced Sunday that he would not seek re-election in the April-May presidential election.

Lee and Chirac were regarded as friends and political allies even though Chirac spearheaded international opposition to the US-led invasion of Iraq, which Singapore supported.

Copyright AFP

SUbject: French news

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