Senior Correspondent, France
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Apr 5, 2012

France’s Juppe warns of left’s “explosive cocktail”

PARIS (Reuters) – French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe warned on Thursday that Socialist presidential frontrunner Francois Hollande’s economic and European plans were an “explosive cocktail” that could derail Europe’s exit from its debt crisis.

Leading the charge to back conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is struggling in his battle for a second term, Juppe said a 60-day plan of emergency economic measures outlined by Hollande on Wednesday could “drive France over a precipice”.

Apr 5, 2012

Hollande to order France finance audit if elected

PARIS (Reuters) – French presidential election frontrunner Francois Hollande said on Thursday he would order an audit of public finances if elected in May, a day after setting an ambitious timetable for implementing his tax-and-spend promises.

The Socialist candidate, leading conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy in polls for a May 6 run-off, made the announcement hours before his rival was to present a costed manifesto in his uphill battle for re-election.

Mar 29, 2012

Funding probes prompt French pre-election skirmishes

PARIS (Reuters) – Allies of French President Nicolas Sarkozy attacked his Socialist opponents on Thursday for drawing attention to an inquiry that raises awkward questions about funding of his 2007 election campaign.

Just over three weeks from an election in which Sarkozy hopes to win a second term, Prime Minister Francois Fillon jumped to his defense, saying the judicial investigation had been running two years and produced no incriminating evidence.

Mar 26, 2012

Shootings no game-change for France’s Sarkozy

PARIS (Reuters) – A spate of shootings by an Islamist gunman looked at first sight like the kind of shock event that campaign managers thought might help French President Nicolas Sarkozy secure a second term in an April-May election.

But as the dust settles on the Toulouse killings, with the lone gunman dead and his brother in custody as the sole alleged accomplice, last week’s drama seems unlikely to prove an electoral game-changer, opinion polls and experts suggest.

Mar 25, 2012

French gunman’s brother suspected of complicity

PARIS (Reuters) – French investigators held the brother of an al Qaeda-inspired gunman in detention on Sunday on suspicion that he was complicit in Mohamed Merah’s killing of seven people, including three children at a Jewish school in Toulouse.

The Paris public prosecutor’s office said preliminary inquiries had produced enough material to justify detaining Abdelkader Merah while he was investigated on multiple counts.

Mar 24, 2012

French gunman’s brother whisked to Paris intelligence HQ

PARIS (Reuters) – The brother of an al Qaeda-inspired gunman who murdered seven people was whisked to Paris on Saturday for further questioning and a police source disclosed he had said he was “proud” of his late sibling’s killing spree.

President Nicolas Sarkozy summoned ministers and police chiefs to a meeting on Saturday to discuss the consequences of Mohamed Merah’s massacre, which has raised troubling national security questions four weeks ahead of a presidential election.

Mar 22, 2012

Radical Islamists taking over French suburbs, Le Pen says

PARIS (Reuters) – Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen accused France’s government on Thursday of surrendering poor suburbs to Islamic radicals and demanded more focus on the nation’s security failings just weeks before a presidential election.

Le Pen, third in opinion polls, was speaking in the wake of the killing of three Jewish children, a rabbi and three soldiers in Toulouse. Their suspected killer, Mohamed Merah, a French citizen with Algerian origins, was killed in a hail of bullets on Thursday in a police siege.

Mar 22, 2012

Far-right chief breaks poll truce over French killings

PARIS (Reuters) – French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen broke a tentative campaign truce on Wednesday, saying an attack on a Jewish school showed it was time to “wage war” on Islamist groups that had flourished due to a lax government.

Le Pen, who is in third place in opinion polls for the April 22 first round, cast aside any semblance of national unity as police laid siege to an apartment in southwest France where a young Muslim gunman suspected of the killings was holed up.

Mar 21, 2012

Special Report: French hopeful Hollande says he’s nothing to fear

TULLE, France (Reuters) – It’s not an introduction you’d expect from a presidential contender. Last, month when French socialist candidate Francois Hollande stepped off a train on a visit to London, he did so with the words “I am not dangerous.”

The bespectacled 57-year old, who is running against President Nicolas Sarkozy, is barely known outside France. Even at home he was long best known as the supportive partner of fellow Socialist politician Segolene Royal. Now, though, opinion polls put him ahead of Sarkozy, a centre-rightist, in the election whose first round will be held on April 22.

Mar 14, 2012

Sarkozy defends plan to crack down on tax exiles

PARIS (Reuters) – French President Nicolas Sarkozy sought to reassure expatriate voters on Wednesday that they would not be hit by his promise of a crackdown on wealthy tax exiles if re-elected next May 6.

Beyond scornful reactions from left-wing rivals, tax specialists say the U.S.-inspired proposal Sarkozy announced on Monday is more symbolic than significant for public finances and would be hard if not impossible to implement.