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Latest update : 2010-02-25

Sarkozy’s old rivals Villepin and Chirac meet for lunch

With cameras snapping, Chirac and Villepin stepped out of a Paris restaurant after their first tete-a-tete in years. During the Clearstream trial which saw Villepin pitted against Nicolas Sarkozy, the former Prime Minister was not permitted to meet Jacques Chirac. THURSDAY, 25th FEBRUARY, 2010

Le Parisien and France Soir both lead with a photo of Villepin and Chirac as they met up for the first time in years. They met in a restaurant, Pierre Claude, in Paris’s 15th arrondissement. Although both sides have said that the location of the dinner was “kept secret to preserve the private nature of this meeting”, journalists mysteriously found out the location of the restaurant! Many suspect that Villepin is trying to use Chirac’s old network in the ruling UMP party to compete with Sarkozy on the political right. Villepin is Chirac’s former Chief of Staff at the Elysée Palace and it was during this time that his rivalry with Sarkozy was born. Both are now sworn political enemies with Villepin clearly planning to stand against Sarkozy in the 2012 presidential election, a move which could split the right-leaning vote and cause Sarkozy to lose his bid to win a second term.
 
Since being accused of being involved in a smear campaign against Sarkozy in the infamous Clearstream case, Villepin has been forbidden to contact several people including Jacques Chirac. Their lunch yesterday therefore has special significance seeing as it’s the first time they’ve properly seen eachother in years (apparently Villepin ‘accidentally’ met Chirac while out jogging in Paris some time ago).
 
Chirac has described his former Chief of Staff at the Elysée who went on to become Foreign Minister and Prime Minister as a “poet meets special forces commander.”
 
Villepin is still embroiled in the Clearstream case. He was cleared but the result has been appealed. As for Chirac, he is tied up in a case concerning misuse of funds while he was Mayor of Paris in the early 90s.
 
So what did the two men eat? Well, France Soir has the details: snails, scallops and veal’s head… a French affair indeed.
 
Other articles in today’s French papers:
 
Libértion: Rwanda’s genocide and France’s role
 
La Croix: Sarkozy’s visit to Rwanda (editorial)
 
Le Parisien : Controversial anti-smoking campaign called off

By James CREEDON

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