French foreign minister resigns

Announcement follows weeks of criticism over Michele Alliot-Marie's links to Tunisia's former leadership.

    Alliot-Marie has been dogged by criticism for her contacts with Tunisia's former administration [EPA] 

    Michele Alliot-Marie, the French foreign minister, has resigned following weeks of criticism over her contacts with the former leadership of Tunisia.

    Her office announced her resignation on Sunday, saying that a letter had been sent to Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president.

    In her letter, a copy of which was seen by news agencies, Alliot-Marie made clear she felt she had done not done anything wrong.

    "While I do not feel that I have committed any wrongdoing, I have ... decided to leave my job as foreign minister," Alliot-Marie wrote in her resignation letter to Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president.

    "I ask you to accept my resignation," she wrote in the letter.

    "Since several weeks, I have been the target of political attacks and then in the media, using, to create suspicion, counter-truths and generalisations."

    Cabinet reshuffle

    Alliot-Marie became embroiled in a  series of controversies over her links to Tunisia after she returned from holiday there last month during the popular uprising that overthrew Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, then president.

    Subsequent revelations about her and her family's links to Ben Ali's entourage, and her offer for France to help riot police quell the uprising there, made her position increasingly untenable.

    It emerged that during her Tunisian holiday she used the private jet of a businessman allegedly linked to Ben Ali, from whom her parents also bought a stake in a company.

    Faced with rising criticism, she announced: "When I am on holiday, I am not foreign minister."

    Later on Sunday, Sarkozy annocuned a cabinet reshuffle.

    He made no reference to Alliot-Marie, but named Alain Juppe, the defence minister and a veteran conservative who served as prime minister and foreign minister in the 1990s, as foreign minister.

    Gerard Longuet, the ruling UMP party's leader in the senate, was made defence minister and Claude Gueant, Sarkozy's chief of staff, who has largely overseen foreign affairs, interior minister.

    The move was seen as accommodating Juppe's wish to have more control over foreign policy than his predecessors.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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