French spy chief fired
PARIS, France -- French President Jacques Chirac's new government has fired espionage chief Jean-Claude Cousseran.
Newspaper reports say Chirac believed the intelligence services were involved in sleaze inquiries against him.
Pierre Brochand, 61, currently France's ambassador to Portugal, was named Cousseran's successor at a Cabinet meeting of Chirac and his conservative government, which ousted Lionel Jospin's left-centre government in June.
The daily Le Monde reported last month that both Cousseran, head of the French DGSE, the equivalent of the CIA, and Jean-Jacques Pascal, who ran the internal state security agency DST, could be replaced by the new Chirac-supporting government.
Pascal was replaced on July 3 by Pierre Bousquet de Fleurian, a former Chirac adviser.
Le Monde reported that Chirac believed the spy bosses ordered or tolerated investigations into alleged links with Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and Japanese financier Shoichi Osada, former chairman of the failed Tokyo Sowa Bank.
Chirac believes Pascal's department stirred up old rumours that a covert ransom was paid to Iran in 1988 for the release of five French hostages held by Lebanese militia groups and that French politicians pocketed part of the cash, it added.
Chirac, who was prime minister at the time of the hostage crisis, has always denied his government paid a ransom.
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