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French Parliament Lower House Approves Presidential Immunity Bill

France's National Assembly has approved a bill that would make France's president immune from prosecution while in office, but leave him exposed to charges once his term ends.

The measure, which still needs Senate approval, would also grant parliament the power to impeach the president in case of serious violations while in office.

The constitutional reform would protect President Jacques Chirac for the remainder of his term from a probe into a party funding scandal that goes back to his 18 years as mayor of Paris beginning in 1977.

Although there is wide support for the bill, opponents worry that the impeachment measure could be misused as a political tool.

Mr. Chirac promised the reform during his 2002 re-election campaign.

Analysts consider it unlikely that Mr. Chirac will seek a third presidential term in April, although he has not explicitly ruled it out.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.