News Agencies – March 23, 2011
Claude Guéant, France’s new interior minister, has been forced into expressing regret for having likened his country’s diplomatic drive for international military intervention in Libya to a “crusade”. Mr Guéant had praised Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, for having “headed the crusade to mobilise the United Nations Security Council, and then the Arab League and the African Union.”
In spite of raising hackles in the Middle East and Russia, Mr Guéant had earlier been unrepentant, telling fellow right-wingers that the modern usage of the term “crusade” did not necessarily have religious overtones. Mr Guéant was named interior minister in a cabinet reshuffle sparked by the resignation of former Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie. She was discredited after taking a holiday in Tunisia over Christmas, just as a popular revolt erupted there. Nicknamed “The Cardinal” during his time as the Elysée’s secretary general, Mr Guéant was admired for his diplomatic skills. But since taking a ministerial post, he has been pilloried for his lack of tact.

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