Sarkozy and Chirac meet S. Hariri à l’Élysée

10May07

The meeting took place at 12:30 pm (1030 GMT) at the Elysee palace.

Both Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy led the ceremony honoring victims of slavery in their first meeting since Sarkozy’s victory in Presidential race.

The two were also to host the son of assassinated former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in the presidential palace Thursday afternoon. France’s relations with the Arab world are expected to cool with the departure of Chirac, a close friend of Hariri and supporter of France’s former protectorate Lebanon.

Many in Lebanon are hoping that the new president may shed Chirac’s legacy. With the United Nations, the outgoing president was in fact a strong backer of the international tribunal charged with investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. So far fingers point to the involvement of Syria and Lebanese President Émile Lahoud.
President-elect Sarkozy asserted the need to create an international tribunal,” Hariri told journalists after the 45-minute meeting.

He asserted the need to pursue relations between Lebanon and France… as they were in the past under President Chirac,” he said.

In a statement, Mr Lahoud said that he was “confident that [Mr Sarkozy’s] term-in-office will witness a strong push and renewal of Lebanese-French relations”.

Also hoping for a change of course, Nawaf Mussawi, head of Hezbollah’ international relations office, said that his party ” welcomed the election results and urged the new leader to make policy decisions that “are more appropriate with French national interests, and consequently less biased toward one party against the other.

An Elysee spokesman said that Chirac wanted Sarkzoy to take part in the meeting with Hariri because of the importance that France accords to its ties with Lebanon.

Similarly, Saad Hariri, leader of Lebanon’s parliamentary majority and son of slain leader Rafik Hariri, sent a message of congratulations to Sarkozy, stressing that “all the Lebanese [. . .] remember France and the French for their permanent stand toward their causes”.

President Chirac and his wife are to move into a Paris apartment belonging to the Hariri family when he leaves the Elysee on Wednesday. In addition to the Quai Voltaire apartment, he will have access — as a former president — to a suite of offices at the nearby Assemblée nationale.

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