Chirac memoir admits admiration for old foe Thatcher

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Paris, Nov.4 (ANI): Former French president Jacques Chirac has expressed a grudging admiration for former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher despite their bitter clashes over Europe.

Though the memoir is critical of Lady Thatcher, Chirac, however, is clearly impressed by her statesmanship.

In his memoirs, to be published on Thursday, the 76-year-old Chirac recounts what he describes as his country's "conflictual" relations with Britain.

Describing her as "one of the most feared figures on the international stage," The Telegraph quotes Chirac as saying: "What made her great in my view was above all her conviction ... she never doubted being in the right."

In "Each Step Must Itself Be a Goal", the first of two volumes, which charts his life up to his 1995 presidency, Chirac argues the UK would have destroyed the fledgling Common Market "from within", turning it into a simple free-trade zone had Charles de Gaulle not vetoed its entry in 1958.

"Nobody can contest today his fears were amply founded," he writes.

Chirac backed Britain's entry in 1972, saying it was "whether we like it or not a European nation" but said a "climate of huge defiance" reigned, in particular over the Common Agricultural Policy.

There was, however, a "honeymoon period" with the then Margaret Thatcher when he became prime minister in 1986, due to their shared concern about the "laxism of the European Commission and its desire to turn itself into a super-state".

But he recalls her fury at being asked to increase contributions.

"There are nine countries taking money, only three paying and I won't accept to put more into the kitty. Pay if you like, I won't pay. The Germans will, you will, I won't," she exclaimed.

However, he claims she went on to concede that farming policy was "not in itself a bad thing".

He reserves his harshest criticism for her handling of the 1981 hunger strike of IRA inmates, ten of whom died.

Much of the book focuses on score settling with domestic foes.

President Nicolas Sarkozy barely gets a mention.

Chirac also completely glosses over the sleaze allegations that have dogged his 40-year career. Last week he was ordered to stand trial for corruption. (ANI)

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