Chirac lauded as great defender of French and European interests

Patrick Kovarik, Reuters | France's President Jacques Chirac waits for African leaders at the opening of the 24th Africa-France summit in Cannes, France, February 15, 2007.

An array of world leaders lined up to praise France's ex-president Jacques Chirac as a great statesman who fiercely defended French and European interests, after his death at 86 on Thursday.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel paid tribute to Chirac as "a great statesman and European".

Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, quoted the chancellor in a tweet as saying Thursday that she was "very sad" about Chirac's death. She said "he was an outstanding partner and friend to us Germans and to me personally".

Chirac was in office when Merkel came to power in 2005 and was the first of four French presidents she has worked with.

Merkel said: "I am mourning a great statesman and European together with his family and the French people."

Her predecessor Gerhard Schroeder was similarly ebullient in his praise for Chirac: "He was an experienced politician, a European who was aware of history, a charming person."

"His legacy for France and the European Union will stay with us forever," added European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

Chirac’s longtime British counterpart Tony Blair – who was famously on the other side of the divide on the Iraq War – offered gushing praise of the ex-French leader’s character: "Whatever our differences from time to time, he was always unfailingly kind, generous and personally supportive."

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday hailed Chirac as "a formidable political leader who shaped the destiny of his nation".

He tweeted his condolences in French to Chirac's family, friends and the French people, adding in English: "His loss will be felt throughout France, across the generations."

‘Wise and far-sighted,’ says Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed former French president Jacques Chirac, who died Thursday, as a "wise and far-sighted statesman", the Kremlin said.

Putin praised the former French head of state "for his intellect and huge knowledge," the Kremlin said, adding that Putin sent a telegram expressing his condolences to his widow Bernadette Chirac.

In his telegram Putin praised Chirac as a man who "consistently defended his country's interests.

"Russia will remember his great personal contribution to the development of friendly ties between our two states (and) mutually beneficial cooperation," Putin was quoted as saying.

In an interview with the Financial Times published in June, Putin said Chirac was one of the world leaders he most admired.

"I was most seriously impressed by former president of France Chirac," he said at the time.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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