Testy Under Pressure

PHILIPPE WOJAZER / REUTERS

MAN OF WORDS: Villepin accused Hollande of cowardice; he later retracted it

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has always espoused a "great man" approach to history and his job: his hero is Napoleon, and his watchword during a turbulent year in office has been voluntarisme, or willpower. "Villepin always wants to go it alone, with great enthusiasm and resolve," says Axel Poniatowski, a deputy of Villepin's own ruling conservative Union for a Popular Movement (ump), "but he runs right into walls."

Poniatowski was among the majority of ump deputies who refused to back Villepin's plan last week to facilitate the merger of Franco-Belgian utility Suez with Gaz de...

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