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Former French president Jacques Chirac dies aged 86

Paris / Former French president Jacques Chirac, who led the country between 1995-2007, has died, his family announced Thursday. 

The former conservative leader was 86.

The ex-two term president’s health had been in decline since his departure from the Elysée. In 2005, he reportedly suffered a minor stroke.

In 2016 he was forced to return to France from his vacations in Morocco to receive treatment for a pulmonary infection. His last public act took place in 2014.

Reacting to the news, Richard Ferrand, the leader of France’s Parliament, said: “Jacques Chirac is now part of the History of France.”

“The French people lost a relentless republican, a visionary, attentive to the great debates of his time. I cannot forget his last message to the French: never deal with extremism or racism.”

During his time in office, Chirac championed the European project and firmly opposed the United States-led invasion of Iraq, which tested relations with then-president George W. Bush and the United Kingdom’s erstwhile prime minister, Tony Blair.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, was “devastated by the news.”

Chirac, born in Paris in 1932, studied at the prestigious Sciences Po and in his youth flirted with communism.

He soon shifted towards the right, however, and came to unite French conservatism by the time he ran for president in 1995, which brought an end to 14 years of Socialist Party rule under his predecessor Francois Mitterand.

Chirac has served under Mitterand as prime minister between 1986-88 in a period of cohabitation in French politics.

He held the same role between 1974-76 under Valéry Giscard d’Estaing.

Up until his arrival at the Elysée, he served as Mayor of Paris (1977-95).

Chirac was later found guilty of embezzlement linked to his time as mayor of the French capital, for which he was handed a two-year suspended sentence.

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