PARIS – Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin admitted in an interview to be published Sunday to committing errors in the handling of the hotly contested youth labor law and expressed regret for misunderstandings.
"There is misunderstanding and incomprehension about the direction of my action. I profoundly regret it," he told Le Journal du Dimanche. Asked if he had made mistakes, he replied, "Of course, in all political action there is some error."
President Jacques Chirac on Friday ordered up a new, modified law in a move widely seen as a disavowal of Villepin — which the prime minister denied. Chirac also said he would sign into law the contested measure — likely to happen Sunday — but asked that it not be applied.
Asked if he felt he had been disavowed, Villepin, Chirac's one-time protege and seen as his preferred choice to succeed him, replied "no."
"We live in an era where someone is constantly searching to pit one against the other. It is not my idea of politics," Villepin said in the interview, made available Saturday evening. "I refuse to enter into that game."
Villepin's intransigent position on the law has brought students and unions into the streets. However, the prime minister said he avoided what he considered an "unforgivable error."
"The main error, the only one that would have been unforgivable, would have been to do nothing against the mass unemployment in our country," he told the paper.
Asked if Chirac had not simply buried the law that Villepin fought to keep alive, the prime minister said the president took a "just decision, respectful of our institutions."
The contested law was passed by parliament and approved by the Constitutional Council.