Chirac says he is well despite Alzheimer's claim

A judge meanwhile rebuffed a bid by Chirac's lawyer to defer the unprecedented trial.
The weekly Journal du Dimanche had quoted unnamed friends of Chirac, 78, as saying he had memory lapses and that his wife Bernadette feared he had the brain disease Alzheimer's. He had a minor stroke in 2005.

"The doctors said he didn't have Alzheimer's and I believe them," Bernadette told Europe 1 radio.The reports had raised the question of whether Chirac might seek to avoid trial on health grounds.

"Do I look like I am not well?" Chirac asked a reporter from French television channel BFMTV when approached outside his home on Monday. "I am very well, thank you. I wish you the same good health."

He did not comment on the trial but his wife told the radio: "He has always said he wanted to be treated as a person liable to trial like any other. He said he would go to his trial and he will."

Chirac's lawyers pushed for a deferral on procedural grounds, but a judge rejected their request and said the trial -- the first ever against a French ex-president -- would go ahead on March 7.

Chirac faces allegations that public funds were used to pay ghost worker salaries to his political allies when he was mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995.Overall, he faces up to 10 years in jail and a fine of 150,000 euros (USD 200,000) on charges including embezzlement and breach of trust.

He has denied having any knowledge of corrupt payments and his lawyers have accused magistrates of political motives.

Chirac regularly polls as one of France's most popular political figures despite his name being linked to a series of corruption scandals. He has never been convicted.
As president from 1995 to 2007, he was immune from prosecution.

In September the Paris city council agreed to accept a payment of more than 2.2 million euros from Chirac and his right-wing UMP party in exchange for dropping a civil suit against him.An anti-corruption group, Anticor, has sued for that deal to be annulled so Chirac will face a civil suit.

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