Paris: President Jacques Chirac chaired the last cabinet meeting of his 12 years in power on 9 May, before hosting a farewell lunch for the French government at the Elysee presidential palace.
The 74-year-old Chirac, who hands over to his successor Nicolas Sarkozy on 16 May invited Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and his government to join him at the Elysee at 1:00 pm.
Preparing to bow out after two mandates as French head of state, Chirac made his last major public appearance at a ceremony commemorating the 1945 defeat of Nazi Germany.
Sarkozy, who returns from a three-day family break in the Mediterranean, declined to take part in the Victory in Europe celebrations saying he did not want to “give the impression of a republic with two heads.”
The 52-year-old head of Chirac’s governing UMP party is to join the president at a ceremony to mark the day of remembrance for victims of the slave trade and commemorate the abolition of slavery.
Once the president’s protege, Sarkozy won Sunday’s presidential run-off against socialist Segolene Royal on a mandate that calls for sweeping reform and a break with Chirac’s record in power.
The departure of the veteran leader, who led opposition to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, will end a four-decade career and mark the end of an era in France.
After stepping down Chirac has said he would like to chair an international foundation, promoting causes close to his heart such as environment and non-European cultures.