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Mourners say goodbye to late French President Jacques Chirac

Visitors queue to pay their respects to former French President Jacques Chirac, on Sept. 29, 2019 at the Invalides monument in Paris. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu, Pool)
A monk walks by the coffin of late French President Jacques Chirac, on Sept. 29, 2019 at the Invalides monument in Paris. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

PARIS (AP) -- Thousands of mourners paid tribute Sunday to former French President Jacques Chirac, who died at 86.

Chirac was lying in state Sunday afternoon inside the Invalides monument in Paris, where France honors its heroes, after he died Thursday.

People were holding a moment of silence in front of the casket draped in the French flag under a large, smiling picture of Chirac.

A booklet prepared by Chirac's family was handed to those who came to the Invalides. Titled "Chirac in his own words", it includes some quotes evoking key moments of Chirac's presidency, like when he defiantly opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, saying: "War is always the worst of all solutions."

Chirac was also the first French president to acknowledge France's role in the Holocaust in 1995.

Remy Clovel came from Paris' western suburb of Saint-Germain-en-Laye to pay his respects.

"I have Jewish origins, so it's important for us that he (Chirac) acknowledged the responsibility of the French state in the persecution of Jews during the Second World War," he said.

Nicole Pats from Boulogne-Billancourt, west of Paris, has recalled Chirac as "a simple man." ''He watched you, smiled at you and he loved you. We had the impression (that we belonged) to his family," she said.

Yolaine Mongole, native from La Reunion island, said she "always admired the man. He was, popular, warm and accessible."

A memorial service is planned Monday in Paris. It will be attended by President Emmanuel Macron and about 30 former or current heads of states and government, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A private funeral will take place later that day at the Montparnasse cemetery in Paris.

Chirac served as Paris mayor, a lawmaker, prime minister and France's president from 1995 to 2007.

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