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French foreign minister quits after Tunisia gaffes

French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie presented her resignation in a letter to President Sarkozy on Sunday following a series of blunders over the popular uprising in Tunisia.

French Foreign Minister Alliot-Marie

Alliot-Marie faced controversy over her Tunisia vacation

French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie reportedly presented her resignation to French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Sunday just three months after she took that post in the last government shuffle.

"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 President Nicolas Sarkozy following a series of diplomatic blunders in connection with Tunisia.

Sarkozy announced that Defense Minister Alain Juppe would take over from Alliot-Marie in a short televised speech on Sunday evening, without mentioning the minister herself.

Contacts with former Tunisian regime

Alliot-Marie sparked controversy when she said France could help Tunisia to quash protests that led to the fall of the Tunisian government.

Only days before the regime fell in January's "Jasmine Revolution," she suggested that French security experts could help train Tunisian riot police to control the popular uprising.

Her position became increasingly untenable when it was revealed that she had taken a holiday in the former French colony at the time of the popular uprisings.

A Tunisian riot policeman faces the crowd

Alliot-Marie suggested France could help train Tunisian police

For the December vacation, Alliot-Marie had used the private jet of a businessman linked to the Ben Ali regime from whom her parents also bought stakes in a company.

Criticism from newspapers, diplomats

Opposition politicians demanded that Alliot-Marie resign and the politician also faced criticism from French newspapers over perceived "lies" and "untruths."

French foreign policy on the North African uprisings was even met with criticism from unnamed diplomats who published an open letter accusing the government of "amateurism" and "impulsiveness" in the French daily newspaper Le Monde.

Former Ambassador Jean-Christophe Rufin on Sunday criticised the "damage" done to France's image.

Gerard Longuet, the leader of Sarkozy's center-right party in the French Senate, will replace Juppe as defense minister. The president’s chief of staff Claude Gueant will swap places with Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux.

Author: Richard Connor (AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Sonia Phalnikar

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