Chirac, Prime Minister Say No To State Support For Mosques In France

MARSEILLE, France (AFP) – In a major broadside, President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin rejected a senior government minister’s idea of using state funds to build mosques and train Islamic religious leaders. Chirac obliquely accused his arch rival – Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to seek his job in the 2007 presidential election – of trying to “open up a new and pointless debate in France on topics that enjoy consensus.” Raffarin said for the government to get mixed up in religion in any way would undermine the very foundations of the French republic, which is based on a strict separation of church and state.