Nicolas Sarkozy rival Dominique de Villepin outlines manifesto
President Nicolas Sarkozy's Gaullist arch rival, Dominique de Villepin, outlined his political manifesto on Thursday ahead of his expected run for the French presidency.
Mr Villepin 57, a former prime minister proposed pulling France back out of Nato's integrated military command structure, which it rejoined under Mr Sarkozy in 2009 four decades after Charles de Gaulle withdrew.
He also said French troops should be withdrawn quickly from Afghanistan.
Among his social proposals was one to create a minimum welfare benefit of €850, which he said he would fund by increasing growth and raising taxes on the rich. France should delay its EU pledge to cut the public deficit to less than three per cent of GDP until 2017, he said, as the current 2013 deadline was "unreasonable".
"In 2012, I want to offer an alternative," said the former dauphin of former President Jacques Chirac, who stopped short of announcing his candidacy for the election next April. This maybe because he wants to wait until after his retrial over his role in the "Clearstream" affair, in which he was cleared of falsely smearing Mr Sarkozy over alleged acts of money laundering.
If he does run, he will join a growing list of centre-ground hopefuls that risk poaching votes from Mr Sarkozy, whose approval ratings are at record lows.
Mr Villepin, a poet who has written works on Napoleon Bonaparte, is best remembered on the international stage for his 2003 speech at the United Nations arguing against the US-led invasion of Iraq.
The enmity between him and Mr Sarkozy is well documented. But Mr Villepin said the president had consulted him on recent unrest in the Arab world and that their relationship was that of "any other two French citizens".