Lyons mayor charged

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LYONS (AFP) - Michel Noir, a leading conservative politician and mayor of Lyons, was charged with embezzling public funds yesterday and ordered to put up bail of Fr2.4m ( pounds 281,000).

Mr Noir, 49, who once had presidential ambitions and split with the mainstream Gaullist Rassemblement pour la Republique (RPR), was also placed under judicial control and ordered by an examining magistrate not to leave the country.

Mr Noir called the moves 'humiliating', and added: 'Of course I do not have the money.' He is alleged to have embezzled Fr6m to finance his political activities. The magistrate is also investigating 'cases of personal enrichment unconnected with politics', according to a report to the Justice Ministry. The report, published in the weekly Express of 3 March, was denounced as a fake by Mr Noir, but the Lyons prosecutor, Jean-Louis Nadal, said it was authentic.

A former foreign trade minister, Mr Noir is the mayor of France's second-largest city, but his presidential ambitions were ruined when he was charged with receiving embezzled funds last year in another affair involving his son-in-law, Pierre Botton, also indicted on fraud charges.

Mr Noir was re-elected as an MP in elections last March.