(b. Rabat, Morocco, 14 Nov. 1953)
French; Prime Minister 2005–7 The son of a French diplomat, he was a graduate of the École Nationale d'Administration and joined the Foreign Ministry in 1980, embarking on a diplomatic career. In 1993 he became an adviser to the Foreign Minister Alain Juppé and two years later was selected by the newly elected President Chirac to become his Chief of Staff. In this position he was involved in many key decisions, including the disastrous early calling of Assembly elections in 1997, which the Socialists unexpectedly won, leading to five years of cohabitation with Jospin. In 2002, with conservatives back in control of the Assembly, the new Prime Minister, Raffarin, appointed him as Foreign Minister. He led a very public campaign against US and UK policy on intervention in Iraq, gaining a standing ovation for a speech opposing war in the UN Security Council in February 2003. In 2004 he became Interior Minister and introduced strict policies against illegal immigrants. When Raffarin resigned in 2005, Chirac appointed him Prime Minister. After serious race riots started in poor housing schemes around Paris, he had to work with Sarkozy, now Interior Minister, to calm the situation, not helped by comments by Sarkozy that many felt had aggravated the situation. In 2006 de Villepin supported new employment laws that would reduce job security for those under 27. The proposals were met with a violent response from students and trade unionists across France and eventually de Villepin and Chirac backed down and the laws were not introduced. This damaged de Villepin's reputation and, combined with the fact that he had never campaigned for any elected office, saw the end of his presidential hopes of defeating Sarkozy as the candidate of the right. He resigned as Prime Minister the day before Sarkozy took up office, to be replace by François Fillon. In 2008 a Rwandan official report into the genocide of 1994 named de Villepin and other French officials as implicated in the events, but this was strongly denied by the French government. He was also charged with complicity in libel in the ‘Clearstream Affair’, a 2004 scandal linked to damaging Sarkozy's reputation as a presidential candidate. He is a strident critic of Sarkozy's style of government.