A Vietnamese woman who was "adopted" by Jacques Chirac in 1979 has lavished praise on the beleaguered French president in a rare interview.
President Chirac has struggled with a sense of national malaise.
Anh Dao Traxel described how Mr Chirac, the then mayor of Paris, took pity on her when she arrived with other destitute Vietnamese boatpeople.
"Don't cry, my dear. From now on, you'll live with us," she quoted Mr Chirac as saying.
She was 21 at the time and spent two years at the mayor's residence.
"He's a man of heart," Mrs Traxel told Le Parisien newspaper, describing her time with the Chirac family as "a fairy tale".
Before the interview she had remained largely hidden from the public for the past 26 years.
She was not formally adopted by the Chiracs, although she describes the president and his wife Bernadette as "my second parents".
Her own parents were later reunited with her in France.
Mrs Traxel plans to write a book about her time with the Chiracs, which is due for publication next February.
Commenting on the chances of Mr Chirac seeking a third term in the 2007 presidential election, she said: "Given his character, I can't imagine that he'll stop, pick up a fishing pole and retire.
"I think he'll fight till the end."
President Chirac, 72, has seen his popularity plummet after a series of setbacks. French unemployment remains stubbornly high, the country rejected the EU constitution despite his plea for a "Yes" vote and Paris lost the 2012 Olympic bid.