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Sarkozy tells French officials no more vacationing on Arab autocrats' dime

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Charles Platiau/Reuters

(Read caption) France's Prime Minister Francois Fillon attends the government questions session at the National Assembly in Paris on Feb 9.

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Cozy post-colonial relations between French and North African elites in states like Tunisia and Egypt have taken a wild ride in the French media this week. Articles today confirmed that Prime Minister François Fillon spent an all-expenses paid week in Egypt recently and was even reportedly flown around on President Hosni Mubarak’s plane.

Revelations of Mr. Fillon’s junket follows the more embarrassing story of Foreign Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie’s free holiday ride on a corporate jet while in Tunisia for the purposes of sidestepping the onset of the revolution that ousted Tunisian strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Now, ever eager to find a quick solution, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has taken the step of ordering French officials to holiday in France on private vacations. They should “prioritize France,” he said. Should foreign governments extend invitations to French officials in future, that trip will have to be approved by, er, Fillon.

"It's only by being irreproachable that highly placed decisionmakers will be able to shore up citizens' confidence in the institutions of the state," Mr. Sarkozy said in a statement yesterday that came upon news that the prime minister’s Egypt idyll was about to hit the newsstands. "That which was common several years ago can be seen as shocking today," the president said.

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