Former UMP (Union for a Popular Movement) politician Christine Boutin has criticised the French Prime Minister's "butcher" comments about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, describing them as "offensive for the profession".
France's President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls on 26 February, 2015, slammed a decision by four French lawmakers to meet with Assad, who they described as a "butcher" and "dictator."
"For parliamentarians to go without warning to meet a butcher... I think it was a moral failing," Valls said.
It was the first such meeting since France closed its embassy in 2012 and announced that Syria's leader had lost all legitimacy.
The trip was not approved by the French parliament's foreign affairs committee, and the Foreign Ministry said it did not support the mission.
Christine Boutin is a former right-wing party UMP minister under Nicolas Sarkozy's presidency between 2007 and 2009. In 2013, she stepped down from her leadership role at the tiny centre-right Parti Chrétien Démocrate (Christian Democratic Party), which she helped found in 2001.
She has been a vocal opponent to President Hollande's policies – making headlines in 2013, for instance, when she appeared wearing a veil on Iranian television to criticise the government's role in the failed negotiations over Iran's nuclear power.
Boutin rejected the expression used by PM Manuel Valls to describe the Syrian president - instead preferring the term "dictator".
For Boutin, the choice of words was ill-suited. "To use the word 'butcher' is quite inappropriate because there are butchers who are beautiful," she told Sud Radio during her visit at the Agricultural Show in Paris on Friday.
She added: "It is by speaking that I realize that we must be careful about what we say; the term 'butcher' is inappropriate by nature. Mr Assad is a dictator, first."
While she said "[he] is certainly a man of a disreputable kind and actually very violent, and probably a dictator", Boutin added that she had "from the beginning believed that the Western European policy towards Syria is not appropriate and [we] must have a contact with Bashar al-Assad."
She continued: "It is essential to restore a dialogue, I welcome the initiative of the parliamentarians. [...] It's good, they'll make things happen."
The party leader was not the only one to disagree with Valls' use of the term - the comments also irritated the French Confederation of Butchers, which immediately published a statement on their website.
"Once again the lack of respect of a politician is confounded with ignorance. There are so many synonyms in dictionaries that it is at best a convenience, at worst a blind malice than to continue to use the word 'butcher'. Mr Prime Minister, can you stop using this sacred word for the 80,000 people - craftsmen, spouses, employees and apprentices - who work in this business, when you designate someone you think is a criminal."