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Foreign minister in hot seat over Tunisia land deal

Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie is on the defensive again. It was revealed Tuesday that while on a Tunisian holiday during the country's recent uprising, her parents signed a property deal with a businessman close to the now-defunct government.

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REUTERS - France's foreign minister was on the defensive yet again on Tuesday over an ill-timed Tunisian holiday that forced President Nicolas Sarkozy to announce curbs on government travel in a bid to quell controversy.

The newspaper that broke initial news about the trip during the Tunisian uprising revealed further information that Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie failed to mention when summoned in parliament to explain -- primarily about a property transaction.
 
The weekly satirical newspaper, Le Canard Enchaine, said the 64-year-old minister's ageing parents signed the property deal with a Tunisian businessman who took the Alliot-Marie family on two jet trips while in the country.
 
Alliot-Marie issued a statement condemning the report on the grounds that it dragged her parents, both in their 90s, into the affair.
 
"I've been involved in political combat for 25 years and I've always accepted the constraints," she said.
 
"Like all politicians I know the rules of the game. But here, once my private life is put through the grinder the inquiry turns on my parents."
 
Alliot-Marie went to Tunisia with her parents and partner Patrick Ollier, also a government minister, between Christmas and the end of 2010, a period during which clashes between police and street protestors had already turned deadly.
 
Sarkozy was forced to respond last week when Prime Minister Francois Fillon, pre-empting revelations about his own holidays, issued a statement saying he had holidayed with family in Egypt, with lodgings provided by the Egyptian authorities, at the end of 2010.
 
The next day, Sarkozy urged ministers to holiday in France more often and said they would have to seek advance clearance from now on when accepting invitations from foreign powers.
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