Pasqua rides to new height in French public esteem

'WE ALL change with age,' said Charles Pasqua, asked if Carlos' appearance had altered when Sudan handed him over to France on Monday. With age, Mr Pasqua has arguably become France's most powerful man. As French Interior Minister, he has set up his own circle of gung-ho lieutenants, mostly of Corsican origin like himself, an intelligence and negotiation network to keep him informed and strike undercover deals.

A Gaullist since the Second World War when he joined the Resistance, the minister has had a career taking him through the sales division of the Pernod-Ricard drinks firm into government. On the way, he founded an unconventional parallel security service to protect Charles de Gaulle from assassination in the early 1960s.

Mr Pasqua's remark about Carlos's appearance, at a triumphant news conference announcing the end of France's 20-year hunt for Public Enemy Number One, was typical of the bitter-sweet one-liners in which Mr Pasqua excels. This talent has made him France's most desired politician for interviews. When there is good news as there was this week, the minister with the heavy jowls and Fernandel eyes is not slow to oblige and his thick southern accent is heard everywhere.

As his colleagues commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Second World War Allied landings in Provence or were on holiday, Mr Pasqua had taken on the appearance of having been left behind to look after the shop.

For two weeks now, Mr Pasqua has monopolised the media. Before Monday's announcement about Carlos, the reason was controversial. For the nine previous days, an extraordinary operation to seek out Islamic terrorist sympathisers had been set up by the police under his command.

Responding to the assassination of five Frenchmen, all employed at the embassy in Algiers, two weeks ago, Mr Pasqua detained 17 Algerians resident in France and said to be close to Algeria's banned Islamic Salvation Front (FIS). Then, as fundamentalist groups threatened reprisals, Mr Pasqua ordered police checks on the streets to nip any terrorist operations in the bud. By yesterday, a total of 25,000 people, all of obvious immigrant origin, had had their papers checked. Six people have been charged with having links to terrorist networks and the number of Algerians held at Folembray barracks north-east of Paris has grown to 25.

For Mr Pasqua's detractors, the operation was seen as a vote-catching harassment of immigrants in the name of law and order. Presumably with this in mind, the Prime Minister, Edouard Balladur, whose refined, cautious and even hesitant approach is the antithesis of Mr Pasqua's, waited over a week before commenting on Mr Pasqua's police operation. When it became clear that it was popular, Mr Balladur ventured that Mr Pasqua had not only his 'full agreement' but his 'full support'.

The two men represent the opposite poles in the Gaullist RPR party: Mr Balladur is the highly educated French administrator with a career in public service; Mr Pasqua, first elected to parliament in 1968, represents the popular strain of Gaullism. When France was threatened with civil war as De Gaulle promised Algeria its independence, Mr Pasqua demonstrated his loyalty to the movement's creator by setting up the Service d'Action Civique, a strong- arm security force noted for violent methods.

He was first appointed interior minister under Jacques Chirac in 1986. Then, bypassing the Foreign Ministry, Jean-Charles Marchiani, Mr Pasqua's main unofficial negotiator, worked to gain the release of French hostages in Lebanon. An exchange for prisoners in France and the settlement of debts permitted the return of the last hostages just before the presidential election of May 1988 which Mr Chirac lost narrowly to Francois Mitterrand. Mr Marchiani, now dealing with Algerian fundamentalism and still talking to Iran, is back in Mr Pasqua's entourage. The negotiations with Sudan leading to the extradition of Carlos again look like an Interior Ministry-led effort, bypassing traditional methods.

Next April and May, France has its presidential election and Mr Chirac is almost certain to stand again. There could be another Gaullist contender: Mr Balladur. Mr Pasqua has tended to support Mr Chirac over Mr Balladur, but has not declared himself finally for either. Now riding high in public esteem, Mr Pasqua is plainly the Gaullists' main power-broker and if there is to be a contest between Mr Balladur and Mr Chirac, his choice could be decisive.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power