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1996: France's former president Mitterrand diesFrance is mourning the loss of its longest-serving president, Francois Mitterrand, who has died at the age of 79 from prostate cancer.
The news was announced by President Jacques Chirac at a news conference at the Elysee Palace.
He told journalists: "For 14 years M Mitterrand wrote an important page in the history of our country. A great figure has left us."
World leaders have paid tribute to France's former president, but Germany's Chancellor Helmut Kohl's was probably the most heartfelt. The pair had formed a close friendship in their shared goal of seeing through European integration.
"Europe has lost a great statesman," he said.
"I am mourning a good friend. We worked together in a close and trusting way for many years in building Europe and the deepening of German-French friendship."
He leaves behind him two sons by his wife, Danielle, and one daughter by his mistress Anne Pingeot.
Mr Mitterrand was a controversial figure with a murky past.
The son of a stationmaster, he graduated from the prestigious Institute of Political Sciences. In 1940 he was taken prisoner after the fall of France and escaped from Germany in 1941 to join the collaborationist Vichy government. He then switched allegiances to the resistance movement.
He held ministerial posts in many cabinets from 1947 until 1958 when Charles de Gaulle became president. A strong opponent of de Gaulle, he made first unsuccessful attempt at the presidency in 1965.
In 1971 he became leader of a new Socialist Party consisting of various disparate left-wing groups. Three years later, in 1974, he tried once more to win the top job but was defeated by Valery Giscard d'Estaing.
Finally he won the presidential elections in 1981 to become the first socialist president in 35 years.
He left office in May 1995 after two seven-year terms and two periods of "cohabitation" - having to work with a right-wing majority in parliament, first with Mr Chirac as prime minister in 1986 and then with Edouard Balladur in 1993.
Changing the face of Paris
Mr Mitterrand earned himself nicknames from friend and foe alike.
Socialists called him Tonton (meaning Uncle) and admired him for bringing the left back into power. The tabloids dubbed him the Great Seducer for his reputation as a womaniser, counting film stars Brigitte Bardot, Michele Morgan and Josephine Baker among his lovers, as well as France's first female prime minister Edith Cresson and former minister Elisabeth Guigou.
And his critics called him "God" because of his expensive architectural "Grand Projects" in Paris - including the glass pyramid at the Louvre and the massive Arche de La Defense - and his monarchic style of leadership similar to his predecessor General de Gaulle.
And like de Gaulle, Mr Mitterrand rejected the pomp of a state funeral. He will instead be buried after a private ceremony in the family tomb in the village of Jarnac, near Angouleme, where he was born.
A mass will be held simultaneously at Notre Dame in Paris attended by world leaders.
Stories From 8 Jan
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