June 24, 2003

L’ETAT C’EST MOI:

PARIS, June 24 — France plans to strengthen its president’s immunity from criminal investigation and prosecution but create clearer guidelines for impeaching a head of state, Justice Minister Dominique Perben announced on Tuesday.

The reform would put into law the blanket immunity that the Constitutional Council granted to President Jacques Chirac in 1999 as an investigating magistrate sought to question him about alleged fraud cases during his 1977-1995 stint as Paris mayor.

It was announced two weeks after an investigating magistrate defied the public prosecutor and pledged to open an inquiry into charges of false billing for 14 million francs ($2.5 million) Chirac and his wife spent on food while at Paris city hall.

But of course.