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French President Who Stood Up to US Dead at 86

Former French leader Jacques Chirac died 'peacefully, among his loved ones'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 26, 2019 7:00 AM CDT
In this Nov. 14, 2006, file photo, then-French President Jacques Chirac poses with residents during his visit to Amiens, France.   (AP Photo/Michel Spingler, File)
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(Newser) – Jacques Chirac, a two-term French president who was the first leader to acknowledge France's role in the Holocaust and defiantly opposed the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, has died at age 86. Son-in-law Frederic Salat-Baroux tells the AP that Chirac died Thursday "peacefully, among his loved ones." Salat-Baroux didn't give a cause of death, though Chirac had repeated health problems since leaving office in 2007. CNN notes he was rarely seen in public in recent years and had memory loss. Chirac was long the standard-bearer of France's conservative right, as well as mayor of Paris for nearly 20 years, and was nicknamed "Le Bulldozer" early on for his determination and ambition. Chirac was also known to be a man of the people, toiling away at regular-joe type of jobs before his political career, including as a sailor, forklift driver, soda jerk, reporter, and worker at a beer plant.

"I worked ... in a factory in St. Louis, an Anheuser-Busch factory," he told Larry King in 1995, per CNN. As president from 1995 to 2007, he was a consummate global diplomat but failed to reform the economy or defuse tensions between police and minority youths that exploded into riots across France in 2005. He also was dogged by corruption allegations, and in 2011 he was found guilty of embezzlement; he received a two-year suspended sentence his lawyers said he couldn't appeal because he was too weakened by health problems, per the Washington Post. Other nicknames he earned during his tenure, in which he flip-flopped on policy, included "Chameleon Bonaparte" and "Girouette," which means "weather vane" in French. Chirac is survived by his wife and two daughters; a third daughter died in 2016.

(Read more Jacques Chirac stories.)

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