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Sunday, May 29, 2005
  Heh, and Double Heh
French Reject Europe's First Constitution: "PARIS -- French voters rejected the European Union's first constitution Sunday, President Jacques Chirac said _ a stinging repudiation of his leadership and the ambitious, decades-long effort to further unite the continent.

Chirac, who urged voters to approve the charter, announced the result in a brief, televised address. He said the process of ratifying the treaty would continue in other EU countries.

'France has expressed itself democratically,' Chirac said. 'It is your sovereign decision, and I take note.'

Earlier, the Interior Ministry said that with about 83 percent of the votes counted, the referendum was rejected by 57.26 percent of voters. It was supported by 42.74 percent.

All 25 EU members must ratify the text for it to take effect as planned by Nov. 1, 2006 _ and nine already have done so. The Dutch vote Wednesday, with polls showing opposition to the constitution there running at about 60 percent.

France's rejection could set the continent's plans back by years. The nation was a primary architect of European unity.

'There is no more constitution,' leading opponent Philippe de Villiers said. 'It is necessary to reconstruct Europe on other foundations that don't currently exist.'

De Villiers called on Chirac to resign _ something the French leader had said he would not do _ and called for parliament to be dissolved.

'Tonight we face a major political crisis,' he said.

Extreme-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, who campaigned vigorously for the constitution's defeat, also called for Chirac's resignation.

Chirac 'wanted to gamble ... and he has lost,' Le Pen said."
 
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