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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 May, 2005, 19:47 GMT 20:47 UK
Chirac appeals for French unity
Jacques Chirac

French President Jacques Chirac has appeared on television to appeal for national unity as a new French government takes shape.

Speaking in the wake of the "No" vote in Sunday's EU referendum, Mr Chirac said France needed a new dynamism to meet economic and social challenges.

He confirmed political rival Nicolas Sarkozy would join the new government led by Dominique de Villepin.

Mr de Villepin is expected to name his full cabinet by the end of the week.

Mr Sarkozy, who is one of France's most popular politicians and is seen as a possible future president, will become "minister of state", Mr Chirac said without elaborating.

The BBC's Caroline Wyatt in Paris says the speech was Mr Chirac's first step towards healing the deep divides in France revealed by Sunday's vote.

It is a task as exacting as the next challenge he faces - mending relations with France's European partners, our correspondent says.

Mr Chirac's address comes on the eve of the Dutch referendum on the EU constitution, where polls put the "No" vote at 60%.

'New impetus'

In his address, Mr Chirac said France's rejection of the EU constitution was not a rejection of Europe, but expressed a desire for "action and results" reflecting voters' discontent.

Together with our partners, I will seize all possible opportunities to revive the great European ambition
President Jacques Chirac

"France must rally together around the national interest," he said.

He said he wanted to give French politics a "new impetus" following a period of difficult reforms and that government changes would provide immediate action to address current difficulties such as unemployment.

France, said Mr Chirac, was stronger when it was working within the European Union.

"We cannot preserve our economic and social model, we can't bring our values to other parts of the world without holding our full place in Europe," he said.

"Together with our partners, I will seize all possible opportunities to revive the great European ambition."

Earlier in the day, Mr de Villepin became prime minister replacing Jean-Pierre Raffarin, who resigned in the wake of the government's EU referendum defeat.

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