Saturday (6 April) was an official day of mourning in France for President Georges Pompidou.?
Saturday (6 April) was an official day of mourning in France for President Georges Pompidou. A memorial service was held in Paris to honour the late President. Heads-of-State and government ministers from 68 countries were in the Notre Dame Cathedral to pay their final homage.
One person who did not attend the 50-minute Requiem Mass was Mme. Claude Pompidou, the President's widow. On Thursday, she and other members of the immediate family attended a private service in Orvilliers, the small village west of the capital where the late President had a country home.
The President of the United States, Mr. Richard Nixon, joined his Soviet counterpart, Mr. Nikolai Podgorny and other world leaders for the memorial service. When the service was over, many of the statesmen began a series of informal talks.
President Pompidou died at a time of extreme stress within the western alliance, with a dispute between the United States and France, over relations between Europe and the United States, putting strains on links between many of the western partners. And so many of the leaders in Paris on Saturday seized the opportunity to have private discussions with one another.
Another topic on the minds of several of the European statesmen was the Britain demand to re-negotiate terms of entry into the Common Market.
The arrival of so many world leaders in Paris caused a security headache for French police. In order to assure their safety, the Cathedral was cordoned off and 50 police specialists were stationed inside Notre Dame. Besides the French security exercise -- code-named "Operation Hedgehog" -- many of the foreign dignitaries were protected by their own personal bodyguards.
Now, the French people have to choose a new President, and already dates have been set for the two rounds of elections. Several candidates have already made it known that they intend to have their names on the ballot papers, including a former Prime Minister, M. Jacques Chaban-Delmas, who has gained the backing of the powerful U.D.R. Gaullist Party.