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Young, brash and popular, but political material?

Sarkozy's junior minister for human rights becomes noted for her candor.

France's Human Rights Junior Minister Rama Yade arrives to meet France's former prime minister Alain Juppe in Bordeaux, southwestern France, March 23, 2009. (Regis Duvignau/Reuters)

PARIS — Significant moments in Rama Yade’s tenure as a junior minister for human rights have been known to gall her superiors and provoke both scorn and admiration from the public. But they also showcase her candor.

Yade did not mince words when she told a French newspaper in December 2007 that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who was a guest of President Nicolas Sarkozy, “must understand that our country is not a doormat on which a leader, terrorist or not, can come to wipe the blood of his crimes off his feet.”

Months later, Le Monde quoted Yade as saying that in order for Sarkozy to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing, China would have to meet certain “conditions,” including dialogue with Tibet. She quickly backed away from the remarks, claiming the word “conditions” was not used during the interview after Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner intervened to clarify.

Yade’s boldest move yet has been refusing a presidential request that she run for a seat in Parliament because she said she was “motivated more by a national mandate than a European mandate.”

“For her, it wasn’t the time,” said Faycal Douhane, a member of the Socialist party’s national council who has known Yade for four years, ever since they were both activists in a network that promotes equal opportunity and French diversity and whose founding members included Rachida Dati, now the Justice Minister. “That’s courage, knowing how to say no.”

Sarkozy expressed his disappointment with Yade’s decision in December and Kouchner, who is her immediate boss, publicly stated that perhaps creating the post of junior minister for human rights was a mistake. Their reactions fueled concern that Yade may not survive another government reshuffle, which could come as early as next month after the results of the elections. Michel Barnier, the Minister of Agriculture and Dati are leading the list of candidates for Sarkozy’s UMP party.

Douhane said Yade, 33, was essentially maligned for doing her job when she spoke out against human rights violators like Gaddafi and China. “Her role is to speak to out,” he said. Her choosing not to run in the Parliament elections was her way of putting her country and Europe ahead of empty political ambitions, he added.

“When she has an idea, she fights to put it forward no matter the difficulties,” Douhane said. “She takes positions even when they are not popular.”