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Angelique Chrisafis

France: Sarkozy on the rise

The first round of the French presidential election entered its final phase, as attacks turned personal and record numbers of voters remained undecided. As official campaigning began, a poll showed 42% of voters could still change their mind before the election on April 22, which will select two candidates to go head to head in a final vote on May 6.

Sarkozy’s inner being comes to his political aid

All true French leaders boast of their cultured side: Jacques Chirac loves African artefacts, Georges Pompidou adored modern art and Charles de Gaulle devoured the classics. But the centre-right presidential candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy, despite his devotion to chanson francaise and his friendship with the ageing rock star Johnny Hallyday, has seen the need to boost his literary credentials.

News through French eyes

In a slick, glass television studio in an office block on the southern outskirts of Paris, a new front in the war on ''Anglo-Saxon'' cultural imperialism opened up recently. President Jacques Chirac's decade-old dream of a ''CNN à la Francaise'' to rival BBC World and United States 24-hour news channels is finally to launch after years of wrangling and in-fighting, promising a revolution in world news.

Outrage as Chirac ally gets top post

French President Jacques Chirac was on Wednesday accused of appointing a close ally to one of the country's top judicial posts to dodge corruption charges when his presidential immunity ends next year. Chirac has been dogged by corruption scandals dating from his time as mayor of Paris between 1977 and 1995.

The dying art of matchmaking

At midnight in the Ritz bar, the country and western music brought the painfully shy bachelor farmers on to the dance floor. Gliding and turning and sweating with nerves, they briefly clung to that rare commodity on Ireland's west coast: women. Jack from Tipperary sipped a pint of Guinness at the bar. Pushing 80, this was his 40th fruitless year at the matchmaking festival but, as the song lyrics kept telling him, hope was a marvellous thing.

Celtic tiger burning bright …

Darren Dent surveyed the concrete walkways of Stella Gardens, the low-rise Dublin estate where he spent 15 years addicted to heroin and where children still alleviate boredom by sniffing Tippex painted on their sleeves. Stella Gardens is on the edge of Dublin 4, the capital's best postcode and the heart of Ireland's economic miracle.

Paisley’s health overshadows talks

The most important political talks in the recent history of Northern Ireland, which began on Thursday last week, appear to hang on the uncertain health of the 78-year-old Ian Paisley. Paisley, the undisputed leader of unionism, resolved to make the 640km journey to Leeds Castle in Kent, south-east England -- where British Prime Minister Tony Blair hosted the talks -- by car and ferry after doctors banned him from flying.

Racist war of the Irish gangs

Not far from the red, white and blue paving stones, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) graffiti and the ''Chinks out'' notices scratched outside Chinese takeaway restaurants in south Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, Hua Long Lin was at home watching TV when a man burst in and smashed a brick into his face.

Libya tried to tempt UK Labour

Libya secretly offered a huge donation to the United Kingdom's cash-strapped Labour Party as part of its attempts to end its international isolation. The Libyan proposal was rejected. But the The Guardian has uncovered other attempts by Libya to get close to Labour.

Is the Edinburgh festival too big?

As the Edinburgh festival swells in size —this year sees a record 20 342 performances on the fringe alone — there are worries it is becoming unsustainable, writes Angelique Chrisafis.

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