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Embattled French foreign minister resigns

By the CNN Wire Staff
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French foreign minister quits
  • NEW: Alain Juppe is new foreign minister
  • Michele Alliot Marie was under fire for a trip she took to Tunisia
  • She said taking a private plane was a mistake, but denied any wrongdoing
  • She resigned to avoid the perception that France's foreign policy was weakened
  • France

(CNN) -- French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot Marie resigned Sunday, saying that public scrutiny of her for close ties to the former Tunisian regime could give the appearance of a weakened French foreign policy.

Alliot Marie has been criticized for taking a private plane during the Christmas holidays to Tunisia during a popular uprising there. The plane belonged to Tunisian businessman Aziz Miled.

The controversy gave the false impression that France was somehow compromised in the Tunisian affair, and she resigned for the distractions to stop, she said in a letter to President Nicolas Sarkozy.

"For a few weeks now, I have been the target of political attacks and then a victim of a media bandwagon to create suspicions and lies. I responded point by point in order to establish the truth," she wrote.

"This campaign does not hinder my relationship with international partners or my ability to fulfil the mission you gave me," she continued. "But, I cannot accept that certain people use this cabal to make others believe there is a weakening of France's international policy."

Alliot Marie defended herself further in her resignation letter.

"Over the last 15 days it is my family, who have been seriously harassed in their private lives by certain medias, in order to find something to weaken me with, as they could not find anything on me," she wrote.

On Sunday, Sarkozy named Alain Juppe as the new foreign minister. He previously served as defense minister.

In a radio interview earlier this month, Alliot Marie admitted that she made a mistake taking a private plane for a vacation, but said she had paid for the trip herself. She vowed never to board another private plane while minister.