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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 May 2005, 19:09 GMT 20:09 UK
Profile: Charles Pasqua

France's former Interior Minister Charles Pasqua was a controversial politician long before he was accused of receiving favours from Saddam Hussein's regime under the UN's oil-for-food programme for Iraq.

Charles Pasqua
Charles Pasqua is a veteran of the French Gaullist movement
He has denied all the allegations made by the US Senate committee accusing him of profiting from illicit sales of Iraqi oil.

The 78-year-old right-wing French senator said he was also pursuing the UK's Financial Times newspaper for defamation, after it reported similar allegations against him in an article published on 28 April this year.

Mr Pasqua stressed that he had not held a government post since 1995, while the now-defunct UN oil scheme ran from 1996 to 2003.

He recently became a French senator and will enjoy parliamentary immunity from any prosecution in France until 2009.

One of his former diplomatic advisers, Bernard Guillet, was recently placed under investigation by a French magistrate on suspicion of involvement in the oil-for-food scandal.

Mr Pasqua told France's Le Monde newspaper that he was not, and had never been, a friend of Saddam Hussein.

French nationalist

He first served as interior minister from 1986 to 1988 when Jacques Chirac was prime minister, and then again under Edouard Balladur from 1993 to 1995.

He has been a leading opponent of the European constitution, ahead of France's 29 May referendum on it.

He lost his seat in the European parliament in June 2004 but was elected a French senator in September 2004.

He remains president of the Rally for France (RPF) party, which he co-founded in 1999 to campaign against the influence of Brussels in French politics.

Earlier he had campaigned against the EU's Maastricht treaty.

He claimed that the neo-Gaullist Rally for the Republic (RPR), which he had helped found in 1976 with Mr Chirac, had abandoned the defence of French sovereignty.

He was born in 1927 to a Corsican family in southern France and joined the French resistance in 1943.

Four years later, he became a member of General Charles de Gaulle's Rally for the French People (RPF).

Before entering politics he studied law at university and worked for the French drinks company Ricard.

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