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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 January 2006, 16:50 GMT
French icon wants to be Belgian
Johnny Hallyday
Hallyday was once dubbed the French Elvis
French rock icon Johnny Hallyday is bidding to become a Belgian citizen.

The 62-year-old singer lodged a naturalisation application in November last year, Belgian officials confirmed.

Pierre-Dominique Schmidt, the country's ambassador in Paris, told Belgian newspaper La Derniere Heure: "He adores France... but he has our spirit."

Hallyday, real name Jean-Philippe Smet, whose father was Belgian, only recently realised he did not have dual nationality.

According to the ambassador, Hallyday had presumed he had dual nationality.

But his father, Leon Smet, had not been married to his mother but another woman at the time of Hallyday's birth and so could not pass on his citizenship.

Mr Schmidt said it would take between 15 and 18 months to make a decision, adding that under Belgian law Hallyday would have to give up his French passport.

"Johnny's decision, to put it simply, comes from the heart," he added.

The singer helped introduce rock 'n' roll to France and has been an icon in the country for decades.

French culture minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres said "Vive Europe - but for me, he is French."

The move follows several lengthy court battles involving the singer once dubbed the French Elvis.

A legal wrangle with his record label, Universal, resulted in his departure from the company last week after 43 years to join rival Warner Music.

An investigation into an allegation of rape made against Hallyday by a former employee in 2003 was also finalised this week, with no charges being brought against the singer.

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