France

Alliot-Marie resigns as France scrambles to defend foreign policy

Reuters/Nacho Doce

France's Foreign Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie resigned on Sunday, after a series of scandals over her relations with the overthrown regime in Tunisia. President Nicolas Sarkozy is due to appear on national television on Sunday night, in a bid to restore confidence in France's heavily criticised foreign policy.

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Following days of speculation, Alliot-Marie confirmed her resignation in a handwritten letter she delivered to Sarkozy on Sunday afternoon.

The tone of the note, which was seen by the AFP news agency, was not repentant.

"For several weeks, I have been the target of political and media attacks that used counter-truths and generalisations to create suspicion," it read.

French politics no stranger to scandals

Alliot-Marie complained that the criticism had targeted her family, and said she did not wish to comprise France's international reputation.

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

"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."

Defence Minister Alain Juppé, who served as foreign minister under Jacques Chirac, will replace Alliot-Marie. Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux is tipped to replace Juppé.

President Sarkozy will make a televised address at 8 pm to confirm the cabinet reshuffle.

He's also expected to discuss the political upheaval in north Africa, and France's policy on it.

Dossier: Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution

His opponents say getting rid of Alliot-Marie won't fix the deeper problems with France's foreign policy, which they claim lie with Sarkozy himself.

"Today France's voice no longer exists," said Socialist party leader Martine Aubry. "French diplomacy is really a wreck."

Last week, a group of unnamed diplomats wrote an open letter to Le Monde newspaper in which they slammed the "amateurism" and "impulsiveness" of the government's foreign policy.

A similar letter was published in Libération on Sunday, claiming that French diplomacy was "in crisis", feared change and was used only "to maintain the status quo".

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