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Thursday, 28 June, 2001, 12:03 GMT 13:03 UK
Profile: Francois Leotard
Francois Leotard in Skopje
Mr Leotard has experience of the Balkans
Francois Leotard, the European Union's resident envoy to Macedonia, served as France's defence minister during previous Balkan conflicts.

The 59-year-old politician oversaw France's involvement in peacekeeping operations in Bosnia between 1993 and 1995 before going on to lead France's centre-right Union for French Democracy - UDF.

Biography
Born 1942
Led UDF party
Former Defence and Culture posts
He pulled away from frontline politics after being placed under formal investigation in 1998 on suspicion of alleged money-laundering.

Coming from a large family, Mr Leotard was born in 1942 in the Mediterranean resort of Cannes. One of his brothers is the film actor Philippe Leotard.

After attending a seminary, he went to France's elite civil service college, the Ecole Nationale d'Administration, and in 1974 joined then-President Valery Giscard d'Estaing's political party, and went on to be twice elected its leader.

Francois Leotard, pictured in 1994
Francois Leotard was France's Defence Minister
In his home region of Var he has been a member of parliament, member of the regional council and mayor of the port of Frejus.

Mr Leotard served in two right-wing governments during the "co-habitation" period under Socialist President Francois Mitterrand, first as culture minister from 1986 to 1988 and later as defence minister.

In 1998, when the National Front made gains in France's regional elections, Mr Leotard said his party must put up new ideas on law and order to compete with the appeal of the far-right.

Scandal

He later became embroiled in a series of financial scandals, and, while cases against him for influence-trafficking and corruption have been dropped, he may still face charges over the money-laundering allegations.

In 1998 he had to defend himself against false allegations of conspiracy to murder. Mr Leotard went through the courts to ban the publication of a book that repeated the allegations that he was involved in the 1994 death of MP Yann Piat.

Days after his appointment as EU Macedonia envoy was announced, Mr Leotard had to issue a statement clarifying remarks he had made to the effect that the Macedonian government must negotiate with ethnic Albanian rebels.

The Macedonian Government has refused to talk to the rebels, who they call "terrorists".

Mr Leotard later said the EU's position remained the same and there was no place for the rebels in the political dialogue.


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