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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 November 2006, 16:29 GMT
France's Chirac honours De Gaulle
French President Jacques Chirac and his wife Bernadette
Mr Chirac praised Gen De Gaulle's legacy
French President Jacques Chirac has laid the first brick of a new memorial to former leader Charles de Gaulle on the 36th anniversary of his death.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and other ministers also attended.

The 15m-euro (10m) memorial complex in Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises in north-eastern France, where De Gaulle is buried, is expected to open in 2008.

Gen De Gaulle was the leader of Free France during World War II and the main architect of the Fifth Republic.

"The more time passes, the more Gen De Gaulle's stature grows," Mr Chirac said.

"He dominates our history. He represents France at its best."

Correspondents say the battle over the late leader's legacy is fuelling rivalries in the 2007 presidential race.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who was absent from the ceremony, is expected to represent the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP).

He has sought to mark his independence from Mr Chirac and other Gaullists, they say.

The prime minister and Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie are seen as heirs to Gen De Gaulle's political legacy, correspondents note - but have yet to rule out their candidacy.


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