Following strong setbacks in regional elections last month, French President Jacques Chirac turned his Cabinet upside down. His most dramatic action was to make Foreign Minister Dominque deVillepin–widely despised at the State Department for his outspoken criticism of U.S. action in Iraq–his new interior minister, giving the Machiavellian deVillepin vast powers over counterintelligence, homeland security, and immigration. The appointment was considered a signal that Chirac wants onetime chief of staff deVillepin to succeed him as president in ’07, when he is almost sure to retire. DeVillepin replaces as interior minister the politician most polls show leading in presidential races, Nicholas Sarkozy, who is now finance minister at a time when France has record 9.6% unemployment.
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