French FM urged to quit over Tunisia holiday during protests

Minister has already faced criticism for appearing to back his regime even after his security forces had fired on unarmed protests against his 23-years of iron-fisted rule.

French FM urged to quit over Tunisia holiday during protests

France's foreign minister faced new calls to resign on Sunday as she faces a controversy over a holiday she took in Tunisia while its uprising flared.

Senior opposition Socialists railed on Michele Alliot-Marie after she admitted on Saturday she had used a private jet of Tunisian businessman, allegedly close to ousted strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, several times during the holiday at the end of December, not only for one trip as she had indicated last week.

Ben Ali fled Tunisia on January 14, and the minister has already faced criticism for appearing to back his regime even after his security forces had fired on unarmed protests against his 23-years of iron-fisted rule.

"Alliot-Marie gets in more trouble every day and her resignation is all but inevitable. It's a question of hours," Jean-Marc Ayrault, who heads the Socialists in France's National Assembly, told RTL radio.

Senior Socialist lawmaker Francois Hollande said the flap had left a void in French diplomacy and called on President Nicolas Sarkozy to dump her.

"Either he defends and keeps Michele Alliot-Marie...and he bears the consequences in the 2012 presidential elections, or he takes decisions and makes choices about the government line-up," Hollande told i-Tele television.

Alliot-Marie insisted on Saturday that she had done nothing wrong and said she had paid for her trip herself with the exception of her hotels, which her parents, who were also on the trip along with her partner, paid for.

The attacks left fellow conservatives scrambling to rally behind her and French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde said she had her support "without reserve" and hoped that she would stay.

"I'm not the team leader. It's up to the Prime Minister (Francois Fillon) to make decisions about his team, but personally I hope" she stays, Lagarde said during an interview on France 5 television.

France, Tunisia's former colonial ruler, was surprised by the pace of developments before Ben Ali fled on Jan. 14, and two days before Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia, Alliot-Marie provoked shouts of anger in parliament when she said Paris was offering Tunisia French crowd control expertise.

Agencies

Last Mod: 07 Şubat 2011, 11:00
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