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France remembers grand ex-President Chirac, flaws and all

International

People watch former President Jacques Chirac on a giant screen set up at the Paris town hall Paris, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. Mourners are signing memory books, flags are lowered and French politicians from across the spectrum are paying tributes to late President Jacques Chirac. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

PARIS (AP) — French people lined up at the Elysee Palace and Paris City Hall on Friday to write in memory books recalling late President Jacques Chirac, who presided over both seats of power during four decades as a larger-than-life French political figure.

The French presidency announced that Chirac would lie in state Sunday during a public ceremony at the Invalides monument, where France honors its heroes. A memorial service and private funeral are planned for Monday.

Chirac, the last French head of state to complete two terms in office, died Thursday at age 86. Flags were lowered Friday on buildings and monuments throughout France in his honor.

Known for championing the nation’s sense of its own grandeur, Chirac was long the standard-bearer of France’s conservative right. He is being remembered fondly despite political failures and a 2011 corruption conviction from actions during his nearly two decades as mayor of Paris.

As president from 1995-2007, he was a consummate global diplomat but failed to reform the French economy or defuse tensions between police and minority youths that exploded into riots across France in 2005.

Chirac’s legacy was especially alive Friday at the Shoah Memorial in Paris. An exhibition featured a 1995 photo of him giving a speech in which he became the country’s first leader to acknowledge France’s role in the Holocaust.

Chirac delivered the speech on the anniversary of 13,000 Jews getting rounded up in France in July 1942. Jacques Fredj, general director of the Shoah Memorial, said that because of what Chirac said “Jews of France, who lived in France and faced denial from the political power, finally reconciled with their own country.”

Chirac also left his mark in Paris with the Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac Museum, which opened in 2006 to display art from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas.

At the time, Chirac dedicated the museum “to people who have too often suffered violence at the hands of history throughout the ages, people who have been brutalized, exterminated by greedy and brutal conquerors, people who have been humiliated and scorned.”

Mahej Navratna, president of the Sri Lankan association in France, wrote in a condolence book set up at the museum that Chirac was “one of the best presidents of France. I’ve highly appreciated what he did for France. I’m a foreigner … but I am very sad today. Very sad.”

The museum is offering free admission until October 11 in homage to Chirac.

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Angela Charlton, Claire Parker and Jeffrey Schaeffer contributed to the story

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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