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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

After 12-Year Presidency, Chirac Prepares His Valedictory Speech

PARIS -- French President Jacques Chirac ends his last full day in office Tuesday with a farewell address to a nation he has led for 12 years, and that he leaves in a state of malaise about its place in the global economy and world affairs.

The debonair 74-year-old turns over power Wednesday to tough-talking fellow conservative Nicolas Sarkozy, a protege turned rival who won election on pledges of a break with the past.

Chirac's attentions will turn to a new foundation aimed at capitalizing on his international reputation.

Aides say the foundation, similar to that of former U.S. President Bill Clinton, would be opened later this year and focus on sustainable development and intercultural dialogue, with a particular emphasis on Africa.

Chirac sought to bring environmental issues into the spotlight during his presidency, though critics say he had more words than action on the subject. He often stressed cultural understanding over exporting Western values -- a stance that Sarkozy distanced himself from in an election-night speech in which he said France would stand beside those oppressed by fundamentalism.

France's relations with Africa are likely to be less close and more pragmatic with the departure of Chirac, who nurtured ties with former French colonies -- and was criticized for cozying up to authoritarian African leaders. Sarkozy has few of those connections.

Chirac often shone brighter on the world stage than at home, where he failed to push through many of his promised reforms. His farewell also opens Chirac up to possible questioning by investigators probing corruption allegations that have gathered dust while he enjoyed presidential immunity.