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French FM Fabius quits, lashes out at US, Russia


PARIS: French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius bowed out of government on Wednesday after a career spanning more than three decades that saw an early string of scandals, but ended with him shepherding a complex climate deal as foreign minister.

And he didn’t leave quietly, lashing out at Russia and Iran for “complicity” in the “brutality” of President Bashar al Assad’s government and criticising the United States for a lack of commitment in resolving the Syrian war.

“It seems the United States lacks the commitment to resolve the conflict in Syria.

The words are there, but the action is missing,” Mr Fabius said in a severe indictment of Washington’s role.

The 69-year-old Fabius holds the distinction of being France’s youngest-ever prime minister, a post he took up at 37 in 1984, and has remained a Socialist heavyweight, ending his career in the ornate hallways of the Quai d’Orsay as his country’s top diplomat.

He was given a standing ovation by lawmakers from his Socialist Party and even those on the right applauded him as he spoke in the National Assembly.

His departure came after President Francois Hollande nominated him to head France’s prestigious constitutional court, a post Fabius said he would take up next month “if things go as planned”.

A wider cabinet reshuffle is expected this week.

Amiable and sometimes witty in person, the cerebral 69-year-old also has a reputation for being aloof.

Nevertheless, his experience made him a popular foreign minister with the French people, who largely saw him as a fitting representative abroad.

He and Hollande were long-time political enemies, but managed to put their rivalry behind them once Hollande became president in 2012 and appointed him foreign minister.

Segolene Royal, the high-profile environment minister and Hollande’s former partner, is among Laurent Fabius’s rumoured successors, but former prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault is also believed to be in the frame.

Fabius helped to negotiate the Iran nuclear deal, as well as dealing with the thorny dossiers of the Ukraine and Syria conflicts, and the growing threat of militancy in western Africa, where French troops are deployed.

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