The Chirac/Saddam relationship goes back to the mid-1970s when Chirac was France's premier and travelled to Baghdad to meet the No. 2 man in the Iraqi government, vice president Saddam Hussein.
The pair got on exceedingly well, and among other things, by the end of his visit Chirac agreed to sell Iraq nuclear reactors.
Saddam came to Paris in 1975. Chirac was his host and personally gave him a guided tour of a French nuclear plant. Chirac offered to sell two reactors to Iraq.
Included in the deal was enriched, weapons-grade uranium (93%), and France also agreed to train hundreds of Iraqi nuclear technicians and scientists who, today, comprise the basis of Iraq's nuclear know-how.
Chirac called Saddam "a friend," and later agreed to sell Iraq the latest Mirage fighter planes, a modern air defence system that the Americans zapped in the 1991 war, as well as surface-to-air missiles and electronic systems.
Saddam, in return, pledged to sell France all the oil it was likely to need.
It was the French-installed Osirak nuclear reactor that the Israelis bombed into oblivion in 1981 - and were condemned for its destruction. Israelis called it the "O-Chirac" reactor. Few at the time wondered why oil-rich Iraq needed nuclear reactors for power. We've since learned it intended to produce nuclear weapons.
French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing wasn't happy about the nuclear deal and later said it wasn't his doing, even though he must have known about it.
D'Estaing was angry that enriched weapons-grade uranium had been sold to Saddam, and tried to change the deal to 3%, uranium which was sufficient for Iraq's non-weapons needs. Saddam said no way, a deal was a deal.
When Chirac lost the French premier's job and ran for mayor of Paris in 1977, rumours abounded that Saddam helped fund his mayoralty run.
When Saddam seized control of Iraq and went to war against what he thought was a dispirited and weakened Iran, which had fallen to the Ayatollah Khomeini, the Iranians felt Chirac was against them and scathingly referred to him as "Shah-Iraq."
In 1986, The New York Times quoted Chirac saying he was a "personal friend" of Saddam, and in 1987 The Manchester Guardian quoted Chirac saying he was "truly fascinated" by Saddam.
After the Israelis bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor, Chirac denied he had anything to do with it, and blamed the sale on the French Industry minister who he said was close to d'Estaing. Chirac reversed earlier praise for the sale.
In 1987, the French satirical magazine Le Canard Enchaine published excerpts of a letter by Chirac to "my dear friend" Saddam that mentioned vague, future projects. Chirac confirmed the letter was genuine.
How much his past friendship with Saddam Hussein influences President Chirac's policies today is unknown, but the intensity of the relationship has lasted years.
It alarms the Israelis; it offends some European countries, especially in Eastern Europe; and we all know the outrage in America over what is seen as France's betrayal, but which may really be loyalty to Saddam.