February 20, 2011 / 8:28 AM / 9 years ago

French envoy to Tunisia says "stupid" for rudeness

TUNIS (Reuters) - France’s ambassador to Tunisia apologised on Saturday for being abrupt with journalists at a recent press conference, after thousands of protesters gathered outside the embassy calling for him to quit over the incident.

“I say I am sorry, I regret my words, I was stupid,” Ambassador Boris Boillon said over state television. “I ask for the forgiveness of all Tunisians.”

Boillon, who arrived in Tunisia last week after a popular uprising forced President Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali to step down in January, was dismissive of reporters’ questions during a recent introductory press event.

At one point he pushed a reporter’s microphone away while berating her, and then stormed off.

Video of the incident was widely diffused on the Internet, leading activists to protest outside the French embassy on Saturday, shouting slogans like “Boris, Boris, quit” and “No to colonialism”.

Tunisians are deeply suspicious of former colonial ruler France’s role in supporting Ben Ali, who ran the North African country repressively for more than 20 years.

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