Tunisia uprising soars in France

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London, Feb 28: France's Foreign Secretary Michele Alliot-Marie has resigned after her close relationship with deposed Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali received a lot of attention.

Alliot-Marie, 64, delivered a handwritten note to President Nicolas Sarkozy blaming her political enemies and the media for her problems.

"For several weeks, I have been the target of political and media attacks that used counter-truths and generalisations to create suspicion," the Daily Mail quoted her note as reading.

"I cannot accept that some people would use this scam to try and make people believe that France's international policy is weakening.

"Though I do not feel I failed in my duties, I have too much respect for the idea of French politics to allow myself to be used as the pretext for such an operation," she had written.

But opponents said she was typical of French politicians who have thought nothing of accepting hospitality and other perks from despotic Arab heads of state.

Alliot-Marie, the only woman ever to reach the post of Foreign Secretary in France, regularly accepted hospitality in Tunisia before pro-democracy campaigners ousted Ben Ali in Jan.

After using a private jet owned by one of Ben Ali's business associates over Christmas she admitted owning a stake in one of his companies.

Within days of the so-called Jasmine Revolution starting in Tunisia, Alliot-Marie suggested sending French riot police to help crush it. She also wanted to send teargas to the country to help disperse protesters.

"Michele Alliot-Marie has fallen and dragged everyone with her. This must be stopped," a senior minister told France's national news agency.

The well-placed source said Alliot-Marie was ultimately being sacked because she was causing Sarkozy's popularity ratings to plummet.

Alliot-Marie will be replaced by Defence Secretary, Alain Juppe, who once received a suspended prison sentence following a party funding scandal.

ANI

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