French minister under fire for Tunisian flights

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The Independent Online

The French Foreign Minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, is struggling for her political life after a series of revelations and misstatements about a luxurious holiday and trips in private jets amidst popular revolt in Tunisia.

Opposition politicians are calling for Ms Alliot-Marie's resignation after she admitted taking two flights aboard the private jet of a Tunisian businessman close to the regime of the deposed president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. After appearing to survive revelations about the first flight, Ms Alliot-Marie, 64, conceded that she and her family had taken a second trip on 29 December to avoid a road journey through towns which were already in revolt. Mr Ben Ali fled the country in mid-January.

Ms Alliot-Marie initially defended herself by saying that the owner of the plane, Aziz Miled – a close associate of Mr Ben Ali's brother-in-law – was an old family friend. She later added: "When I am on holiday, I am no longer Foreign Minister."

Ms Alliot-Marie had already embarrassed the French government during the Tunisian revolt by telling the National Assembly that she was ready to send police to help with crowd control.