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by Euro Reporter
2010-06-13 09:26:58
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Putin meets with Sarkozy in Paris amid warship row

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin held talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the Elysee Palace in Paris Friday. Putin also met with former French President Jacques Chirac and Christophe de Margerie, CEO of French oil giant Total. Russia’s purchase from France of Mistral warships, which can carry 16 helicopters and a 750-strong landing force, dominated the talks and the media coverage.
 
The proposed sale to Russia has been criticised by Baltic nations and Georgia, with whom Russia entered into a swift, violent conflict in 2008. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who was in France Tuesday, did not exclude the possibility of Georgia, in turn, equipping itself with French defence weapons in response. The signing of the much-trailed contract between Russia and France has come up against some other serious obstacles, aside from international pressure. Moscow is insisting on the transfer of technology, and after having bought the first French ship, would like to build the rest on Russian soil. Paris has refused this condition, and has stipulated that construction takes place in France.

"The world is going through a difficult time and we have to stand together to remain competitive," Putin said while standing alongside Fillon at the opening of a Franco-Russian cooperation exhibition in Paris’s Grand Palais on Friday. "In scientific and technological areas, we must unite our efforts," he said before heading to the Elysee palace for talks and lunch with Sarkozy. Russian Industry Minister Viktor Khristenko reiterated the same point in less diplomatic language, saying, "For us, the most important thing is to buy technology. That is the future". Before leaving for Paris, Putin had said that the signature of the contract would depend on France accepting to transfer technology to Russia.

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Conservative ex-minister gives up salary after perks row


A French ex-minister and leader of a Christian values party was forced on Thursday to give up a 9,500-euro salary for a job as head of a task force after a row erupted over her perks. Christine Boutin, an ultra-conservative politician who opposes abortion and gay marriage, was named in April by President Nicolas Sarkozy to lead the task force on globalisation.  She has been receiving 9,500 euros (11,500 dollars) per month for the job on top of her pension benefits as a former minister and member of parliament, for a monthly total of 17,500 euros paid by the state.
 
The government initially defended the paycheck but Labour Minister Eric Woerth said on Thursday he would ask the 66-year-old politician to relinquish some perks during these belt-tightening times. Boutin later backed down, agreeing to give up the extra pay. "I have decided to carry out this mission free of charge, by giving up my 9,500 euros per month," she told television.  But she also said she had been unfairly singled out for attack, insisting that "there are many people in this situation, who sooner or later will face the same problem". "I am setting a legal precedent," she said.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon's office issued a statement saying he "welcomes the decision by Christine Boutin to give up all pay for the mission she is carrying out on the social impact of globalisation". Fillon also said that from now on there would be a single common framework for the wages paid for such government advisory jobs.

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Suspected Muslim polygamist charged with welfare fraud


A French Muslim butcher at the centre of a firestorm over polygamy was charged on Wednesday with welfare fraud and his four companions will also face charges, a prosecutor said. Lies Hebbadj, who runs a halal butcher shop in the western city of Nantes, made headlines after his wife was fined for driving in her full-face veil in April. Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux had threatened to strip the Algerian-born man of his French passport after accusing him of polygamy, which is illegal in France.

Following a nearly two-month investigation, Hebbadj has been charged with welfare fraud and violating labour laws, Nantes prosecutor Xavier Ronsin told a news conference. The 35-year-old was placed under judicial control, forced to hand in his passport and pay a 10,000 euro (12,000 dollar) bail before leaving the court house in a police van, hidden from journalists. His four companions including his wife will be summoned to appear before a magistrate soon to also be formally charged with welfare fraud, said the prosecutor.

The charges stem from a number of alleged violations showing that Hebbadj cashed in on welfare benefits to which he was not entitled, the prosecutor said. Two of his companions lived in Dubai for a year while continuing to receive welfare benefits worth 10,000 euros in France. Hebbadj fathered 15 children and soon will have 17 with the women who received benefits over the past three years totaling 175,000 euros.


       
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