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France has announced that it is pulling out of the 20th anniversary commemorations on Monday for the Rwandan genocide.
The French government’s decision follows an accusation by Rwandan President Paul Kagame that France participated in the mass killings in 1994.
Paul Kagame has previously made similar allegations, which France has denied.
The French foreign ministry said the remarks went against reconciliation efforts between the two countries.
French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira has cancelled her plans to attend the events in Kigali on Monday, foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal says.
Speaking to the French-language weekly news magazine Jeune Afrique, Paul Kagame denounced the “direct role of Belgium and France in the political preparation for the genocide”.
Rwanda was a Belgian colony until 1962.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame accused France of participating in the mass killings in 1994
In the interview, due to be published on Sunday but carried out on March 27, Paul Kagame is quoted as saying that, 20 years on, “the only plausible reproach in [France’s] eyes is in not having done enough to save lives during the genocide”.
It comes as Rwanda prepares to mark the 20th anniversary of the atrocities that claimed at least 800,000 lives – mostly ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus – over a period of about 100 days.
The violence was triggered by the death of President Juvenal Habyarimana, an ethnic Hutu who was killed in a plane crash on April 6, 1994.
It came to an end after Paul Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) – a Tutsi-led rebel group – defeated government troops in July that year.
His party still controls the government and has long accused France – an ally of Juvenal Habyarimana’s government at the time – of aiding the genocide.
In recent years there has been a thaw in relations between the two countries, with a visit by Paul Kagame to Paris in 2011 and the establishment by France of a genocide investigation unit.
Last month, a Paris court sentenced former Rwandan spy chief Pascal Simbikangwa to 25 years in jail for his role in the genocide – the first such conviction in France.
France has acknowledged that serious errors were made during the genocide in Rwanda.
A Rwandan commission in 2008 said France was aware of preparations for the genocide and helped train ethnic Hutu militias who participated in killings.
Paris said its forces helped protect civilians as part of an UN-mandated intervention in Rwanda. But Paul Kagame said French troops had protected the militias carrying out the killings.
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A Rembrandt painting has been recovered in France, 15 years after it was stolen.
The 17th Century painting L’enfant a la bulle de savon (Child with soap bubble), valued at 3.2 million euros ($4.3 million), was taken from a museum in the southern city of Draguignan in 1999.
Two men were arrested in Nice on Tuesday, according to the AFP news agency.
Rembrandt’s L’enfant a la bulle de savon was taken from a museum in Draguignan in 1999 (photo AFP)
Police said they received information that a transaction was due to take place in a hotel the following day.
The men, aged 46 and 53, one of whom was described as a former insurer, appeared in court in Nice on Thursday, AFP said.
They were reported to be known to police for previous petty crimes. Police are still looking for other suspects.
The painting was stolen from Draguignan’s Musee Municipal d’art et d’histoire during the city’s Bastille Day celebrations in July 1999.
At the time, police said the thieves entered through a back door and escaped before officers responded to the alarm.
The undated painting, which portrays a teenage boy with long dark brown locks, wearing a golden necklace and holding a soap bubble, was said to be in a good condition.
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France’s highest court has approved a 75% tax on high income.
The new tax is one of President Francois Hollande’s signature policies.
The initial proposal to tax individual incomes was ruled unconstitutional by the Constitutional Council almost exactly one year ago.
But the government modified it to make employers liable for the 75% tax on salaries exceeding 1 million euros ($1.3 million).
France’s highest court has approved a 75 percent tax on high earners that is one of President Francois Hollande’s signature policies
The levy will last two years, affecting income earned this year and in 2014.
Football clubs in France went on strike earlier this year over the issue, saying many of France’s clubs are financially fragile and say the plans could spark an exodus of top players who are paid huge salaries.
The Qatari-owned Paris Saint-Germain has more than 10 players whose pay exceeds 1 million euros, including the Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
There has also been a chorus of protest from businesses and wealthy individuals who have condemned the tax – including actor Gerard Depardieu, who left the country in protest.
Polls suggest a large majority in France back the temporary tax.
Abdelhakim Dekhar has been identified by the French authorities as the man arrested on suspicion of carrying out recent gun attacks in Paris.
Abdelhakim Dekhar was taken into custody at about 19:00 from a vehicle in a car park in Bois-Colombes, north-west of Paris.
Authorities said the gunman had been jailed in 1998 for his role in a string of fatal shootings in Paris.
Last Friday a gunman threatened a Paris TV station and on Monday attacked Liberation newspaper office and Societe Generale HQ.
Prosecutors said late on Wednesday that samples of Abdelhakim Dekhar’s DNA matched that from the crime scenes.
They said he was not yet in a position to be questioned and the reading of his rights had been postponed.
Abdelhakim Dekhar was arrested in a stationary car in an underground car park following a tip-off from a member of the public.
French authorities have named the man arrested on suspicion of carrying out recent gun attacks in Paris as Abdelhakim Dekhar
Police union official Christophe Crepin said: “My colleagues noticed he was not very lucid. They deduced that he had taken medicines, because of the capsules nearby.”
Some media sources have suggested he may have attempted suicide.
Abdelhakim Dekhar is believed to have been the third man in the so-called Rey-Maupin affair, named after a young couple with links to anarchist groups who bungled an attempt to steal weapons from guards and then hijacked a taxi.
In the subsequent chase and shootout, three policemen and the taxi driver were killed, as well as Audry Maupin.
Audry Maupin’s girlfriend, Florence Rey, was released from jail a few years ago.
Their story was compared to the controversial American film, Natural Born Killers.
At his trial in 1998, Abdelhakim Dekhar protested his innocence, claiming he had been recruited by the Algerian secret service to infiltrate the French far-left. He served four years.
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The Paris gunman has been captured and taken into custody on suspicion of carrying out recent attacks on the Liberation office and Societe Generale HQ, prosecutors say.
French police said the man bore a strong resemblance to the person shown in surveillance camera footage.
He was taken into custody at about 19:00 local time from a vehicle in a car park in Bois-Colombes, west of Paris.
The suspect threatened a TV station last Friday, and attacked the Liberation office and Societe Generale HQ on Monday.
He was apprehended from a stationary car in an underground car park.
The Paris gunman was taken into custody from a vehicle in a car park in Bois-Colombes
Prosecutors said the reading of the man’s rights had been postponed and he was not yet in a position to be questioned. They gave no further explanation and have not yet given the man’s identity nor any motive.
Hundreds of police were involved in an intensive manhunt since Monday and security was stepped up at all media outlets.
An appeal for information generated almost 700 calls.
The first incident – last Friday – was at the offices of the BFMTV television channel.
The intruder emptied the chamber of his gun in the reception area without firing, saying: “Next time, I will not miss you.”
CCTV showed that he spent only a few seconds in reception, before hurrying out.
On Monday, the suspect attacked the offices of the Liberation newspaper, firing twice and critically injuring a 23-year-old photography assistant.
Two hours later, the same man fired shots outside the headquarters of the bank Societe Generale, in the western business district of La Defense. No-one was hurt.
A car was then hijacked and the driver was forced to drop the suspect off near the Avenue des Champs Elysees, where he disappeared.
IKEA France directors are being investigated by French prosecutors over allegations that they snooped on employees and customers.
Chief executive Stefan Vanoverbeke, his predecessor Jean-Louis Baillo, and chief financial officer Dariusz Rychert were arrested on Monday.
They are accused of trying to obtain information on employees and customers from police files.
Similar legal action has been taken against at least two police officers.
The IKEA bosses face accusations of “complicity to collect personal data” and “complicity to violate professional secrecy”.
The move comes after police searched the company’s premises earlier this month.
The scandal first came to light last year after an IKEA insider leaked emails between the company and a security company to the satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchaine.
IKEA France directors are being investigated by French prosecutors over allegations that they snooped on employees and customers
The emails suggested that the firm was seeking access to records about its staff and customers from a police database holding millions of names and the personal information of criminals, victims and even witnesses.
Two unions have filed complaints against IKEA, accusing them of spying on hundreds of employees and customers over a period of five years.
Since January, 10 people have been placed under formal investigation including four police officers and the company’s former head of security.
Stefan Vanoverbek’s lawyer, Alexis Gulbin, said his “client totally disputes his involvement in this matter”.
“He’s calmly awaiting the next steps in the process. He was the one who took corrective measures as soon as the problems were discovered,” said Alexis Gulbin.
Last year IKEA France suspended and later fired its head of risk management and three of its senior directors.
Since then the company has also put in place a new code of conduct.
A spokeswoman for IKEA France said the firm was aware of the latest developments and would continue to assist the authorities.
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One man has been seriously injured after a gunman has opened fire inside a Paris office building housing the left-wing newspaper, Liberation.
The victim was a photographer’s assistant, aged 27, Liberation said.
On Friday a man armed with what appeared to be a gun broke into the Paris offices of the rolling news channel BFMTV. He did not fire any shots and no-one was injured.
It is not clear whether there is any connection between the two incidents.
On its website, Liberation said the man entered the premises shortly before 10:15, armed with a hunting rifle. He fired two shots, wounding the photographer’s assistant before escaping.
The gunman did not say anything, Liberation reported. He is described as aged about 40 and wearing a cap.
A gunman has opened fire inside Liberation’s office in Paris
Police have now been stationed outside the offices of all major media organizations in Paris.
Liberation’s deputy editor Fabrice Tassel said the victim – who was shot in the chest – was fighting for his life.
Police have sealed off the area around Liberation‘s offices. Interior Minister Manuel Valls has arrived at the scene.
Liberation said three spent cartridges of buckshot had been found, along with traces of buckshot in the ceiling.
“In a democracy, when someone enters a newspaper office with a gun, this is very, very serious, whatever the person’s mental state,” said Liberation‘s publisher Nicolas Demorand.
Nicolas Demorand said he would hold a news conference at 4 p.m.
In the next few hours, investigators will compare CCTV images from the two attacks to see if there are any similarities, BFMTV said.
A journalist from Liberation told BFMTV that the two security guards at the entrance immediately ducked down behind their desks when the man drew his weapon and did not see him clearly.
The NSA has spied on French diplomats in Washington and at the UN, according to the latest claims in Le Monde newspaper.
NSA internal memos obtained by Le Monde detailed the use of a sophisticated surveillance programme, known as Genie.
US spies allegedly hacked foreign networks, introducing the spyware into the software, routers and firewalls of millions of machines.
It comes a day after claims the NSA tapped millions of phones in France.
The details in the latest Le Monde article are based on leaks from ex-intelligence analyst Edward Snowden, through Glen Greenwald, the outgoing Guardian journalist, who is feeding the material from Brazil.
It comes on the day the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, is in London meeting foreign counterparts to discuss Syria.
The Le Monde report sets out details of Genie, an NSA surveillance programme in which spyware implants were introduced remotely to overseas computers, including foreign embassies.
The NSA has spied on French diplomats in Washington and at the UN
The newspaper claims bugs were introduced to the French Embassy in Washington (under a code name “Wabash”) and to the computers of the French delegation at the UN, codenamed “Blackfoot”.
The article suggests that in 2011, the US allocated $652 million in funding for the programme, which was spent on “spy implants”. Tens of millions of computers were reported to have been hacked that year.
A document dated August 2010 suggests intelligence stolen from foreign embassy computers ensured the US knew ahead of time the positions of other Security Council members, before a UN vote for a resolution imposing new sanctions on Iran.
The US was worried the French were drifting to the Brazilian side – who were opposed to implementing sanctions – when in truth they were always aligned to the US position.
The intelligence agency quotes Susan Rice, then-US ambassador to the UN, who praises the work done by the NSA: “It helped me know… the truth, and reveal other [countries’] positions on sanctions, allowing us to keep one step ahead in the negotiations.”
On Monday, Le Monde alleged that the NSA spied on 70.3 million phone calls in France between December 10, 2012, and January 8, 2013.
At a breakfast meeting with the US secretary of state on Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius demanded a full explanation.
Referring to a telephone call between the French and US presidents, Laurent Fabius told reporters: “I said again to John Kerry what Francois Hollande told Barack Obama, that this kind of spying conducted on a large scale by the Americans on its allies is something that is unacceptable.”
Asked if France was considering reprisals against the US, government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem replied: “It is up to Foreign Minister Fabius to decide what line we take but I don’t think there is any need for an escalation.
“We have to have a respectful relationship between partners, between allies. Our confidence in that has been hit but it is after all a very close, individual relationship that we have.”
Both French officials made their comments before the latest revelations appeared in Le Monde.
Edward Snowden, a former NSA worker, went public with revelations about US spying operations in June.
The information Edward Snowden’s leaked led to claims of systematic spying by the NSA and CIA on a global scale.
Targets included rivals like China and Russia, as well as allies like the EU and Brazil.
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France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has summoned the US ambassador over Le Monde newspaper claims that the US spied on millions of phone calls in France.
France has labeled such activity between allies as “unacceptable”.
Le Monde says the data, based on leaks from ex-intelligence analyst Edward Snowden, suggest the US NSA monitored businesses and officials as well as terrorism suspects.
The intercepts were apparently triggered by certain key words.
Le Monde says the US National Security Agency (NSA) spied on 70.3 million phone calls in France in just 30 days between December 10, 2012, and January 8, 2013.
The NSA also apparently captured millions of text messages.
Leaks from ex-intelligence analyst Edward Snowden suggest the NSA monitored businesses and officials as well as terrorism suspects
It was unclear whether the content of the calls and messages was stored, or just the metadata – the details of who is speaking to whom.
Le Monde did not say whether the operation, codenamed US-985D, was still in progress.
Laurent Fabius announced that he had summoned the US ambassador to discuss the claims “immediately”.
Interior Minister Manuel Valls had earlier said the allegations were “shocking”, and added: “If an allied country spies on France, this is totally unacceptable.”
Le Monde reported in July that the French government ran a huge snooping operation on its own citizens, giving its intelligence agencies access to vast amounts of personal data.
The latest revelations follow claims in the German media that US agents hacked into the email account of former Mexican President Felipe Calderon.
Edward Snowden, a former NSA employee, went public with revelations about US spying operations in June.
The information he leaked led to claims of systematic spying by the NSA and CIA on a global scale.
Targets included rivals like China and Russia, as well as allies like the EU and Brazil.
The NSA was also forced to admit it captured email and phone data from millions of Americans.
Edward Snowden is currently in Russia, where he was granted a year-long visa after making an asylum application.
The US wants Edward Snowden extradited to face trial on criminal charges.
Cosmetics giant Avon Products has decided to close its French operations by the end of the month.
Avon office in Paris says only current orders will be guaranteed and it is unsure if its self-employed representatives will be able to get supplies after the end of October.
Avon has been in France for almost 50 years.
It employs about 120 staff in Paris, supporting 11,000 representatives who visit customers in their own homes.
Avon Products has decided to close its French operations by the end of the month
Angry workers in France have accused Avon of keeping them in the dark for months and not acting in line with Avon’s publically stated values of being a socially responsible company that upholds values of trust, respect and integrity and a culture of “open and candid communication”.
Further meetings are taking place between workers’ representatives and the management.
Avon is one of the world’s largest beauty companies and sells most of its products through direct selling by self-employed representatives who visit customers in their homes.
The US parent company has been through a string of reorganisations and management changes.
Two years ago, Avon turned down a takeover offer from rival cosmetic company Coty.
At least three people have been killed by an explosion that partly destroyed a block of flats in the northern French city of Reims, officials say.
Reims Mayor Adeline Hazan told BFM TV that the explosion at the four-storey building was probably caused by a gas leak.
Police said another 14 people were injured, including a number of children.
Images show one end of the building has collapsed.
Adeline Hazan told BFM TV the blast – which happened at 11:15 – had been “very strong” and had shattered windows in other buildings.
At least three people have been killed by an explosion that partly destroyed a block of flats in the northern French city of Reims
Two bodies were brought out of the rubble during the morning. A third was found later by search teams. By Sunday evening, two residents were still thought to be missing.
Ten flats were thought to be affected.
The building, in the Wilson area of Reims, is described as social housing dating back to the 1960s.
It was renovated several years ago but residents said that while the front had been re-painted, no change had been made to the interior structure.
A gas explosion in a flat in nearby Witry-les-Reims in early April left four people from the same family dead.
Housing Minister Cecile Duflot has promised a full inquiry.
“It appears the building was well maintained. All the necessary checks were carried out on the appliances,” Cecile Duflot said.
In a statement, President Francois Hollande sent his condolences to the victims’ families and his solidarity to the city of Reims.
France has confirmed today that Islamist commander Abdelhamid Abou Zeid has been killed in fighting in Mali.
Abdelhamid Abou Zeid was a senior figure in al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
Earlier, the French newspaper Le Monde said DNA samples had made it possible to formally identify Abdelhamid Abou Zeid.
The Chadian army fighting alongside French forces claimed earlier this month it had killed Abou Zeid and fellow militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar in fighting in February.
“The president of the French Republic confirms with certainty the death of Abdelhamid Abou Zeid after an offensive by the French army in the Adrar des Ifoghas (mountains) in the North of Mali, at the end of February,” the Elysee presidential palace said.
The statement said the death of “one of the main leaders of AQIM marks an important stage in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel (region)”.
The fate of Mokhtar Belmokhtar has yet to be confirmed.
France has confirmed today that Islamist commander Abdelhamid Abou Zeid has been killed in fighting in Mali
Islamist rebels seized the vast north of Mali a year ago after a military coup in the capital Bamako. They imposed strict Sharia law on the people they controlled.
France intervened militarily in January amid fears that the militants were preparing to advance on Bamako.
France currently has about 4,000 troops in Mali.
Mali’s army and troops from several African countries, including 2,000 from Chad, have also been involved in the fighting.
Since the intervention began, major cities including Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu have been recaptured but fighting is still continuing in desert mountains.
France plans to withdraw its troops from Mali next month, with West African countries expected to take over in the run-up to elections due in July.
Abdelhamid Abou Zeid was believed to be behind several kidnappings of Westerners.
On Wednesday, AQIM said it had killed French hostage Philippe Verdon who was taken prisoner in Mali in 2011.
It said his death – which France has not yet confirmed – was in retaliation for France’s intervention in Mali.
As well as Philippe Verdon, a total of 14 French nationals are still being held by Islamist groups in Africa.
Arcelor Mittal is no longer welcome in France, Minister for Industrial Recovery Arnaud Montebourg has said, accusing the steelmaker of “lying” and “disrespecting” the country.
The multinational angered workers and the government when it announced a plan in October to close two furnaces at its steel plant in Florange.
It gave the government a grace period of 60 days to look for a new owner.
The Mittal family said they were “extremely shocked” by the comments.
“We no longer want Arcelor Mittal in France because they didn’t respect France,” Arnaud Montebourg told French business daily Les Echos.
The minister, who previously opposed the closure of a Peugeot factory, accused the company of “overwhelming lies” and said the Florange closure breaks a promise made by chief executive Lakshmi Mittal during Mittal Steel’s 26.9 billion-euro takeover of Arcelor in 2006, which was strongly opposed by French ministers.
The problem “isn’t the furnaces in Florange, it’s Mittal”, said Arnaud Montebourg.
Arcelor Mittal is no longer welcome in France, Minister for Industrial Recovery Arnaud Montebourg has said
Lakshmi Mittal, the Indian-born chief executive, is expected to meet with President Francois Hollande on Tuesday to discuss the group’s operations in France.
The talks come ahead of a deadline on Saturday which Lakshmi Mittal gave the state to find a buyer for the two idled blast furnaces in Florange, a traditional steel town in north-eastern France.
The government says it has received two offers, but only for the entire site. Lakshmi Mittal has refused to sell the full operation, which employs a total of 20,000 workers.
As a result, Arnaud Montebourg has said he is exploring how to seize the entire Florange site should Lakshami Mittal refuse his demands.
According to the French newspaper, Arnaud Montebourg’s idea “would be a partnership with a minor manufacturer, the time to stabilize activity” in Florange.
Jean-Louis Borloo, a conservative politician and a former environment minister, also supported Arnaud Montebourg’s efforts.
“France’s steel industry needs to live – there are 2,200 people on the site, 22,000 Arcelor Mittal employees in France and globally, there are 75,000 [employees involved in steel],” he told France Inter radio.
“And the idea that the government, along with its sovereign wealth fund and partners like Eramet and Ascometal (mining and metallurgical groups), reflect upon a temporary state control… does not seem inappropriate.”
The Mittal family said they were “extremely shocked” by Arnaud Montebourg’s attacks on the steelmaker.
One person close to the group said: “These are pretty violent comments towards a group that employs 20,000 people in France.”
France’s Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has said that 9 out of 10 citizens will not see their income taxes rise in the new budget.
He has confirmed that there is to be a new 75% tax rate for people earning more than 1 million euros ($1.3 million) a year.
Jean-Marc Ayrault has not yet detailed how much taxes will rise for the rest of the top 10%.
It is one of the key policies in what he called “a courageous, responsible budget – a budget of conquest”.
France’s Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has said that 9 out of 10 citizens will not see their income taxes rise in the new budget
The government’s priorities were young people, training and cutting 10 billion euros from its spending, he said. This would demand an effort but would be fair, he added.
Official figures on Friday showed that French public debt had hit 91% of GDP between April and June this year.
It was 89.3% at the end of March, which was still well above the eurozone limit of 60%.
Jean-Marc Ayrault pointed out that debt had grown by 30% of GDP in the past five years and that the debt threatened future generations.
He also said that the budget would encourage small and medium businesses and that taking risks would also be encouraged.
In its first budget, the Socialist government repeated its promise to cut the annual deficit to the eurozone limit of 3% of GDP next year.
The deficit this year is expected to be 83.6 billion euros, which is 4.5% of GDP.
Jean-Marc Ayrault said that France was strong when it set itself ambitious targets.
But some analysts said that the targets were too ambitious because they assumed too much growth for the coming years.
They said that tax increases and spending cuts would make it difficult to achieve the 0.8% growth in 2013 and 2.0% growth in 2014 that are predicted by the budget.
French police have arrested 19 suspected Islamists and seized weapons in a series of dawn raids, President Nicolas Sarkozy told Europe 1 radio.
The raids were in Toulouse, the home of gunman Mohamed Merah, and other cities.
Mohamed Merah, who killed seven people in three separate attacks, was buried in Toulouse on Thursday after being killed in a shoot-out with police on 22 March.
Police have been hunting possible accomplices but sources said there was no direct link with the raids.
Mohamed Merah’s brother, Abdelkader, has been charged with aiding him and police are hunting a third man said to be involved in the theft of a scooter that Merah used in all the killings.
Nicolas Sarkozy told Europe 1 radio after Friday’s raids: “It’s our duty to guarantee the security of the French people. We have no choice. It’s absolutely indispensable.”
The raids were carried out by the domestic intelligence agency, the DCRI, with the help of the elite Raid police commando group, Agence France-Presse news agency reports.
French police have arrested 19 suspected Islamists and seized weapons in a series of dawn raids
Several of the raids were in Toulouse, particularly the Mirail quarter, sources told AFP.
But there were also raids in Nantes, which is believed to be a centre for the Forsane Alizza (Knights of Pride) group, to which Merah had been linked by some French media.
It is a Salafist group that was dissolved by the interior ministry in an earlier investigation.
Other arrests took place in Lyon, Marseille, Paris, Nice and Le Mans.
Police sources told AFP that some weapons had been seized, including at least one Kalashnikov rifle.
After Mohamed Merah’s killings, President Sarkozy ordered police to evaluate the level of danger posed by those known to sympathize with radical Islamists.
Nicolas Sarkozy told Europe 1 that arrests of suspected radical Islamists “would continue and that will allow us to expel from our national territory a certain number of people who have no reason to be here”.
He added: “What must be understood is that the trauma of Montauban and Toulouse is profound for our country, a little – I don’t want to compare the horrors – a little like the trauma that followed in the United States and in New York after the September 11, 2001 attacks.”
Nicolas Sarkozy is in the midst of a presidential election campaign, seeking a second term in office in the polls on 22 April.
An opinion poll late on Wednesday suggested Nicolas Sarkozy was now ahead of main challenger Francois Hollande in first-round voting intentions – by 30% to 26% – and had narrowed Hollande’s lead in the largely expected run-off vote on 6 May.
Mohamed Merah, 23, was buried at the Cornebarrieu cemetery in Toulouse on Thursday. His body was accompanied by around 15 men, although it was not clear who they were.
Toulouse’s mayor had said it was “inappropriate” for Mohamed Merah to be buried there, but Algeria, where his family is originally from, had refused to accept his body.
Mohamed Merah died in a police assault on his flat in Toulouse on 22 March after a 32-hour siege. He had killed three soldiers in two separate attacks before shooting dead three children and a teacher at a Jewish school.
Mohamed Merah is said to have told police he wanted to avenge Palestinian children and to attack the French army because of its foreign interventions.
The former French President Jacques Chirac has been given by a court a two-year suspended prison sentence for diverting public funds and abusing public trust.
Jacques Chirac, 79, was not in court to hear the verdict because of ill-health but denied wrongdoing.
President from 1995 to 2007, he was put on trial on charges that dated back to his time as mayor of Paris.
Jacques Chirac was accused of paying members of his Rally for the Republic (RPR) party for municipal jobs that did not exist.
The former French President Jacques Chirac has been given by a court a two-year suspended prison sentence for diverting public funds and abusing public trust
The prosecution had urged the judge to acquit Jacques Chirac and nine others accused in the trial. Two of the nine were cleared. The other seven were found guilty and all but one handed suspended prison sentences.
Jean de Gaulle, grandson of former President Charles de Gaulle, was handed a three-month suspended term while former union leader Marc Blondel, 73, was convicted but escaped a sentence.
In 2004, during his presidency, several figures including France’s current Foreign Minister Alain Juppe were convicted in connection with the case.
Alain Juppe was given a 14-month suspended sentence.
Jacques Chirac, mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995, is the first former French head of state to be convicted since Marshal Philippe Petain, the leader of the wartime Vichy regime, was found guilty in 1945 of collaborating with the Nazis.
The verdict would come as a surprise to the French public because the prosecution said it had not been proven that Jacques Chirac had known of individual cases of fake jobs.
The case was divided into two parts: the first count involved embezzlement and breach of trust in relation to 21 bogus jobs; the second related to a charge of illegal conflict of interest concerning seven jobs.
Jacques Chirac was found guilty of both.
The former president, who had legal immunity during his time as head of state, faced a potential 10 years in prison and a fine of 150,000 euros for the employment of more than 20 bogus officials.
“Jacques Chirac has breached the duty of probity required for public officials, to the detriment of the public interest of Parisians,” said tribunal judge, Dominique Pauthe.
Although Jacques Chirac himself was not in court, his adopted daughter Anh Dao Traxel was present to hear the verdict which she described as “too, too severe for him” and a great source of pain.
“As a family, we should all absolutely support him… for his health for the rest of his life,” Anh Dao Traxel said in an emotional statement outside the court.
The former president’s doctors say Jacques Chirac has irreversible neurological problems which cause memory lapses. His legal team will now consider whether to appeal against the conviction.
“For those expecting the case to be thrown out or at least no penalty, the ruling may appear disappointing,” said one of Jacques Chirac’s lawyers, Georges Kiejman.
“I hope this judgement won’t change at all the profound affection that the French people still have towards Jacques Chirac.”
There was little sympathy from some quarters.
“I call on Mr. Chirac to accept the consequences of his conviction and indeed resign from the Constitutional Council,” said Green presidential candidate Eva Joly, referring to his role in France’s highest authority for constitutional issues.
His rival for the presidency in 2002, former National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, described the verdict as “a ray of sunshine in the black sky of scandals”.
For Michel Roussin, former director of Jacques Chirac’s cabinet who was found not guilty by the court of abuse of trust, the ex-president had “assumed his political responsibility”.
After 17 years of “incessant battles”, he said he was relieved the case was over.
Danielle Mitterrand, the former French First Lady and widow of Francois Mitterrand, has died at the age of 87.
Danielle Mitterrand died in Georges-Pompidou hospital in Paris after being taken ill on Friday, the French news agency AFP reports.
The former French First Lady died at 02:00 (01:00 GMT) on Tuesday, days after being placed in an artificial coma.
Former French President Francois Mitterrand led the Socialist party and served two terms as president of France, from 1981 to 1995.
Danielle Mitterrand died in Georges-Pompidou hospital in Paris after being taken ill on Friday
Resistance heroine and humanitarian, Danielle Mitterrand was never content with the ornamental role of a traditional French first lady, according to AFP.
Whether it was backing the Kurds or Tibetans or Cuban leader Fidel Castro, pleading for an equitable share-out of water resources or denouncing slavery, the causes that Danielle Mitterand defended ardently were numerous, the agency reported.
Born Danielle Gouze in the eastern town of Verdun, she joined the Resistance as a nurse aged only 17, when German troops occupied most of France in 1940.
On 27 October, 1944, she married Francois Mitterrand, a fellow Resistance member, whom she met when he was on the run from the Gestapo.
Danielle and Francois Mitternad had two sons, Gilbert and Jean-Christophe.
After Francois Mitterrand’s election in 1981, AFP said she preferred to shun the glittering receptions at the Elysee Palace, and devote herself to human rights work.
Former President Francois Mitterrand died of cancer in 1996, but his widow continued her political and human rights work. The organization Danielle Mitterand founded in 1986, France-Libertes, celebrated its 25th anniversary in October this year.
DSK spent more than three hours in a police interview as a “witness” just over a week after charges of sexually assaulting a hotel chambermaid in New York were dropped.
Journalist Tristane Banon, 32, filed a complaint this summer alleging that Dominique Strauss-Kahn sexually assaulted her in a Paris apartment in 2003 where he had invited her to interview him for a book she was writing.
Tristane Banon said the fomer IMF chief lunged at her like a “rutting chimpanzee” and she had to fend him off with kicks and punches as he ignored her cries of “rape”.
DSK is suing Tristane Banon for defamation, alleging she made up the "imaginary" assault as a publicity stunt
DSK is suing Tristane Banon for defamation, alleging she made up the “imaginary” assault as a publicity stunt.
Police are now conducting a preliminary investigation into Tristane Banon’s allegations to see if there is enough evidence to press charges.
Police has already interviewed friends, family members and other politicians in the investigation, including Tristane Banon’s mother – once DSK‘s lover – and François Hollande, polled as most likely to be the Socialists’ presidential candidate.
Tristane Banon, 32, filed a complaint this summer alleging that Dominique Strauss-Kahn sexually assaulted her in a Paris apartment in 2003
DSK‘s lawyers Frédérique Baulieu and Henri Leclerc said on Monday:
“At the request of Mr Strauss-Kahn, this interview is taking place as early as possible in the timetable of the investigation.”
Meanwhile, Tristane Banon said over the weekend she was “sickened” by the “hero’s welcome” he received on DSK return to France from the US.
“What has been happening over the past six days makes me feel sick,” she wrote.
“I cannot believe that my country gives a hero’s welcome to a man who has not been cleared.
“I hear people telling me of their disgust, I feed off their support to remain upright, yet I am the one who bows my head and hugs the walls while others laugh at the cameras.”
She has called for a demonstration on September 24 in front of Paris’s criminal court to demand a trial.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s return has embarrassed the opposition French Socialist party, about to launch presidential primaries. Party’s former leader Martine Aubry, a presidential hopeful, said DSK “must explain himself” to party colleagues.
Before DSK arrest in New York in May, he had been the Socialist party’s favourite to challenge Nicolas Sarkozy next April, with polls predicting he would win comfortably.
Attempted rape charges were dropped in New York after prosecutors ruled that chambermaid Nafissatou Diallo had later lied to police and was “unreliable”. DSK had always insisted sex was consensual.
DSK still faces a civil lawsuit filed by Nafissatou Diallo in the US.
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