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IN THE PRESS

An overview of the stories making the French and international newspaper headlines. From Monday to Friday live at 7.20 am and 9.20 am Paris time.

Latest update : 2011-02-07

"A Messy Business"

FRENCH PAPERS, Monday, 7th February 2011: the French press leads on the latest political scandal here. Foreign Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie is under attack for alleged lack of transparency about trips in Tunisia aboard a private jet owned by a businessman seen as close to the Ben Ali clan.

The Socialist Party opposition has called on President Nicolas Sarkozy to sack his foreign minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, over flights she took in Tunisia at the end of last year, a time the country was in tumult. The jet belonged to a businessman seen as close to the Ben Ali clan. France Soir headlines: “Une Sale Affaire” meaning “A messy business”. The paper says that she “has not revealed all”. The Foreign Minister acknowledged over the weekend that she used the businessman's jet twice during a holiday with her family and not once, as previously indicated. She also added fuel to the flames by saying at one point that when she is on holiday she is not the Foreign Minister. The opposition is having a field day, of course, saying MAM has shown staggering incompetence and must go.

Aujourd’hui-en-France/Le Parisien is also leading on the scandal, quoting her as saying: “I do not reply to insults”, a reference to opposition politicians who’ve called for her to quit. MAM tells the paper that she realises people will be shocked by revelations of her use of a private plane but did nothing wrong.

The left-wing paper Libération says MAM has been “caught in mid-air” and is proving to be a millstone around President Sarkozy’s neck. MAM had already courted controversy prior to Tunisia’s revolution by offering Ben Ali’s security services French help to tackle demonstrations. A cartoon in Libé shows a plane diving to the ground and MAM shouting: "It is a good job, I’m not at my post ".

The free paper “Metro” headlines: “Alliot-Marie going through a patch of turbulence”. It says her Tunisia trip has become an affair of state, adding that the noose is tightening. It wonders whether she will be able to hang on to office.

Le Figaro leads with a report that fourteen French people are believed to be training in Al-Qaeda camps in the Afghan-Pakistan border area, along with a hundred other European nationals. It says the fighters could well carry out attacks on French soil as “such people often have a personal vendetta against their country of adoption”. The paper reminds its readers that Osama Ben Laden said last October that France would never be safe as long as its forces were stationed in Afghanistan.

Libération’s front page headline is: “The Unfinished Revolution”, a reference to the Egypt crisis. It says that as talks between Egypt’s government and opposition begin, the country is returning to work. Its editorial looks at what it calls the fearful response of the middle class - “Réflexe peureux du bourgeois” – which, it says, is wary of the revolt on the streets and prefers injustice to lack of order. The editorial argues that dictators do have friends among an intellectual and governing elite which is hiding behind calls for caution.

The far-left paper L’Humanité says the people of Egypt are not giving up. Its editorial asks whether revolutions in the Arab World could take the region “beyond a historic trap of dictatorship versus fundamentalism”.

And the Catholic daily, La Croix, has a photo of protesters in Tahrir Square with a caption saying that people holding crosses and Korans have been shouting: “The Bible and Koran ask Mubarak to go”.

By Nicholas RUSHWORTH

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