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Former French Prime Minister Pierre Messmer dies at age 91

Former French Prime Minister Pierre Messmer dies at age 91

Pierre Messmer, a member of the French Resistance who was the country's prime minister from 1972 to 1974, has died at age 91, former President Jacques Chirac said Wednesday.
Chirac called Messmer, who was prime minister under President Georges Pompidou, a "statesman who was passionately committed to his country."
"With him, a great Frenchman is gone, a hero of fighting France ... of the liberation of Paris, a great statesman who was passionately active for his country," Chirac said in a statement.
Messmer died Wednesday at a Paris hospital, a person close to him said.
President Nicolas Sarkozy called Messmer one of France's "greatest servants" and said "the entire nation bows before his memory."
"Pierre Messmer was first of all a magnificent combatant who was among the first to rally behind Gen. de Gaulle," Sarkozy said in a statement.
Messmer entered the French Resistance in 1940, fleeing Nazi-occupied France for England on a a cargo ship. From there, he participated in major campaigns in North Africa and elsewhere and stormed the beaches of Normandy in June 1944.
After the war, he entered politics and was named by Pompidou in July 1972 to replace outgoing Prime Minister Jacques Chaban-Delmas, who had resigned.
Upon Pompidou's death in April 1974, Messmer _ a member of the UDR, a Gaullist party _ was widely viewed as a potential presidential candidate, but he was outmaneuvered by his rivals and later took a low profile in the political scene.
Born on March 20, 1916, in the Paris suburb of Vincennes, Messmer studied to work as an administrator in France's overseas colonies.
Following World War II, he worked in French-ruled Vietnam, helping to prepare France's withdrawal.
The experience marked him. In a 2000 book called "The White Man Leaves," he wrote: "I learned that other peoples, like mine, had a taste for freedom." He later worked in West Africa, playing an important role in the decolonization of France's former colonies there.
Messmer was named Minister of the Armed Forces under de Gaulle in 1960, when France's war in Algeria _ the jewel in its colonial crown _ was reaching its bloody apex. After the North African nation won its independence in 1962, Messmer headed France's overhaul of its army.
Following his tenure as prime minister _ which was marked by his staunch loyalty to Charles de Gaulle's principles _ Messmer never held another major political office.
Funeral arrangements for Messmer were not immediately known.


Updated : 2021-02-27 09:35 GMT+08:00