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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 June 2006, 13:46 GMT 14:46 UK
French PM apologises for outburst
French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin addressing parliament, 2 May 06
Mr de Villepin accused the opposition leader of cowardice
French PM Dominique de Villepin has apologised for an angry outburst directed at the opposition Socialist leader in parliament on Tuesday.

He "regretted" the outburst and said he would like to take back his words.

Mr de Villepin had repeatedly accused Francois Hollande of cowardice after he criticised the PM's handling of several major issues.

Senior Socialists reacted furiously, with some calling for his resignation and others threatening a walkout.

Defence contract

On Wednesday Mr de Villepin sought to calm the storm during a question and answer session at the National Assembly.

"If some words personally injured you, I regret them and I take them back," Mr de Villepin said, with Mr Hollande looking on.

Mr de Villepin launched his retaliatory attack after Mr Hollande criticised him over delivery delays at the European defence contractor, EADS, and an alleged smear campaign over which Mr de Villepin is suing two journalists.

However, the PM was defended by a government spokesman, who said Mr Hollande should have expected a robust response to what he described as highly aggressive accusations.

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