Tintin's politics confuses French

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FRENCH MPs held a 90-minute debate yesterday on whether the cartoon hero Tintin was right-wing or left-wing.

At least 16 foreign television channels filmed the debate held in the National Assembly, which formed part of celebrations to mark the 70th birthday of the boy reporter created by Belgian Georges Remi under the pen name of Herge.

Closely watched by the Belgian ambassador and Herge's widow, deputies argued heatedly for two hours without reaching firm conclusions.

Some argued that Tintin was right-wing at least in his first appearance, when he visited the Soviet Union in a book that seemed crudely anti-Communist. They said he was still right-wing when he visited the Congo and mocked Africans. But he had turned into a left-winger, a friend of the Third World and an ally of oppressed nations by the time he travelled to South America in Tintin in Picaro Country and China in The Blue Lotus.

Yann Galut, a member of the French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin's Socialist Party, praised Tintin's policy on drugs, but was careful to distance himself from the young scribe's policy on Africa, which he described as "paternalistic".

Tintin remains hugely popular in France. The country's former leader, General De Gaulle, once grumbled that "deep down, my only international rival is Tintin". (Reuters)