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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 August 2007, 11:01 GMT 12:01 UK
French ex-PM Raymond Barre dies
Raymond Barre, file photo
Barre was PM for five years
Raymond Barre, the centrist technocrat who served as French prime minister for five years from 1976 to 1981, has died in Paris at the age of 83.

He succeeded Jacques Chirac in the post, serving under President Valery Giscard d'Estaing who called him "France's best economist".

He also served as a European commissioner and mayor of Lyon.

Seen as arrogant by some, he said in later life: "The French must understand that my policies were right."

France has just lost one of its best servants
Valery Giscard d'Estaing
former French president

Mr Barre died in a Parisian hospital. He had been receiving treatment for a heart condition since April.

"France has just lost one of its best servants," Mr Giscard d'Estaing said in a statement released on Saturday by French news agency AFP.

"Raymond Barre was a statesman who pursued no personal goal but sought to ensure the well-being of our country through exceptional competence and dedicated work."

Austerity drive

He was little known until his appointment as prime minister, having pursued an academic career as an economist, but he did serve from 1967-73 as commissioner for economic and financial affairs in the European Economic Community, a forerunner of the EU.

As head of the government, he cut thousands of jobs in the loss-making steel and coal industries.

His austerity drive, involving wholesale job cuts, made him highly unpopular, BBC Europe analyst Mike Sanders notes.

He responded by mocking banner-waving trade unionists, telling them to stop whingeing and start working.

To compound his unpopularity, he was accused of anti-Semitism in 1980 after a clumsy comment about a bomb attack outside a Paris synagogue that killed four "innocent French passers-by", as he put it, instead of the Jews for which it was intended.

His tenure ended in 1981 with the Socialist victory that brought Francois Mitterrand to the presidency.

'Jewish lobby'

Barre stood for president himself in 1988, winning 16.53% of the vote in the first round but losing out to Mitterrand and Mr Chirac.

After serving as mayor of Lyon from 1995-2001, he retired from active politics in June 2002.

In a French radio interview a few months before his death, Mr Barre reignited controversy when he suggested that the row over his remarks about the synagogue bombing had been stirred up by a "Jewish lobby".

He also spoke positively about two controversial figures with Lyon connections - the late wartime Nazi collaborator Maurice Papon and contemporary French far-right politician Bruno Gollnisch.

Raymond Barre was born in the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion on 12 April 1924, into a well-to-do Roman Catholic family.

Married and with two sons, he enjoyed listening to Mozart and watching Westerns, Reuters news agency notes.

Thank you for sending us your memories of Raymond Barre. You can read a selection below.

RAYMOND BARRE AND JACQUES CHIRAC--both men dedicated their lives to politics, but the former didn't feel the need sell his soul to achieve his goals. Deepest condolences to his family.
HKLivingston, London/New York

He did great things for France however he could of made it better but no one listened to him. he was a very kind and gentle man and will always be remembered. it's very sad. He could of made France very great if people let him however that wasn't so. France will always remember him and let's hope President Sarkozy does what he meant to do.
Thomas, France

Mr Barre loyally served his country France and his continent Europe. So, he deserves days of mourning from both the French and Europeans. Let me offer my deepest sympathy and condolences to the friendly people of France.
Moussa Ndir, Dakar, Senegal

An extraordinary man whom I had the honour to meet privately. Interviewed in 1980 by Anne St Claire and asked as pm: what advice he would give to all frenchmen in these difficult times?, his simple answer was.........travailler! [work hard] France has lost one of its best.
michael kukla, canterbury england

M. Barre's antisemitc views and his recent attempt to clear Maurice Papon - rightfully condemmned for his crimes against humanity in 1998 - should also remain vivid in everyone's memory. We can only hope that his disappearance will finally mark an end to "justified Petainism" in France¿ It is about time!
Richard Gilles, Paris, France

Raymond Barre was a competent, discreet, efficient politician, who never worked for personal enrichment or influence, and was far from indulging into unfair deals. A determined honest man.
MF Faure, Mâcon, France

Raymond Barre was right to say: "The French must understand that my policies were right." He was a man of vision. If, instead of sleeping during parliamentary sessions, he had had the energy President Sarkozy has, he could have done great things for my country. Still, he won't be forgotten.
Fabien, Edinburgh, UK

Sincere condolences to his family. M.Raymond Barre was one of the best prime ministers since wwII. He told always the truth and applied the right politic. He will remain as one of France's great servants.
Henry Debae, Genval Belgium

Though frequently demonized by his harshest critics, Raymond Barre was an iconic figure in French politics who left his mark both in policy and in public face. He will be dearly missed.
Pierre, Paris, France

My commentary is simple and to the point, France should've took the chance with Quebec. Other than that, my condolences..
Jean Perriat, Montreal, Quebec

sincere condolences to his family. monsieur r Barre was a great pm and dignified cultured fellow
rioufol , st tropez-france

A bright Intelligence: calm, pragmatic, clever in economic matters; Too good For French which led to Socialists' victory in 1981!!!!
DUCREY Gilles, Saint Germain en Laye , FRANCE

Profile: Giscard d'Estaing
19 May 03 |  Europe
Timeline: France
20 Jun 07 |  Country profiles
Country profile: France
20 Jun 07 |  Country profiles

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