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by Euro Reporter
2011-05-06 07:57:19
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President Sarkozy shifts into re-election mode

French President Nicolas Sarkozy put his re-election campaign machine into motion this week, strongly hinting at his candidacy during an interview with a French weekly that was published on Wednesday. In a long Q&A session with the popular L’Express magazine, which covered both Sarkozy’s international preoccupations and controversial domestic reforms, the French president refused to directly answer if he would be a candidate in next year’s presidential elections.

However, when asked to respond to foreign minister Alain Juppe’s comment that Sarkozy’s re-election bid was an “open secret”, the president said he “appreciated [Juppe’s] competence” and said the minister was “a credible man who says valid things”. With less than 11 months before the presidential vote, only a handful of political figures, such as former Socialist Party leader François Hollande, have announced their intention to run for president. The French are now growing impatient to hear more from who they already consider to be the main candidates: IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Nicolas Sarkozy.

The French president is facing a double challenge that some analysts think has made it virtually impossible for him to win in 2012: An almost stagnant economy that was not enviable even before the 2008 economic crisis, and approval ratings that have tanked to between 28% and 30% according to various opinion polls. “None of his predecessors had such a bad standing in pubic opinion,” L’Express reminded readers in a preamble to an interview that demonstrated that Sarkozy is still full of ambition.

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'Not our objective to kill Gaddafi’

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé said that it was never France’s objective to kill Gaddafi or his family, describing the death of the leader’s son as "collateral damage", while ruling out foreign military intervention in Syria.

Almost two months after the international coalition comprising French forces began bombarding Gaddafi military targets in Libya, FRANCE 24 asked French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé how his government views the conflict now, and whether Osama bin Laden’s death will affect France’s position in the region. “It’s perfectly clear that it is not our objective to kill Gaddafi, Juppé insisted. “We are carrying out strikes with the aim of destabilising Gaddafi's military capabilities (…). We will continue with the strikes until we can neutralise these capabilities.”
 
Juppé insisted that the international military intervention was only “helping” the rebels’ National Transitional Council rather than fighting the battle for them. “Libyans themselves must take charge of their destiny. We are just there to help, to reinforce the National Transitional Council and give them the means to defend themselves against Gaddafi’s forces” he said.

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Unions and far right stage rival May Day marches


French far-right leader Marine Le Pen led her party’s traditional “Joan of Arc” march in Paris on Sunday, seeking to cement the National Front’s credentials as a workers' party even as French trade unions held their annual May Day rally.

France's far-right National Front kicked off its traditional "Joan of Arc" May Day march Sunday with a new leader at the head and under orders banning skinhead haircuts and jackboots. The annual march was also timed as a Labour Day tribute to workers by the Front (FN), which polls particularly well in depressed post-industrial regions.

Separately, five major labour unions planned around 200 marches across France for Labour Day, including a march in eastern Paris, to call for measures to tackle the rising cost of living, while also condemning racism. The five said in a statement their marches were a gesture "in international solidarity" with the protest movements in several Arab countries and opposed "exclusion and racism" against immigrants in France.

Meanwhile Marine Le Pen, the daughter of the FN's founder Jean-Marie Le Pen who succeeded him as its leader in January, drew applause as she took her place at the head of her march in front of Paris's grand old Opera. "Marine for president," cried the crowd of several thousand. "Red, white, blue, France for the French!"


        
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