PARIS, May 15, 1958 (UP) - Gen. Charles De Gaulle announced dramatically today that "I hold myself ready to take over the powers of the Republic." Thus, the 67-year-old World War II hero stepped back into the political picture in a crisis that has brought France to the brink of civil war.
De Gaulle made his offer in a formal statement issued from his Paris headquarters. He himself was at his country retreat at Colombey-Les-Deux-Eglises, 150 miles east of Paris.
With the statement, he broke a four-year silence on national affairs.
The text of De Gaulle's statement said:
"The degradation of the state inevitably brings with it the estrangement of the peoples of our territories, trouble in the fighting army, national dislocation and the loss of our independence.
"For 12 years France, at grips with problems too harsh for the regime of political parties, has been engaged in a disastrous process.
"In the past the country gave me from its very depths the confidence to lead all of it to its salvation.
"Today, in face of the troubles which are mounting again in the country, it should know that I hold myself ready to take over the powers of the republic."
De Gaulle has denied repeatedly that he would ever seek to grab power by force.
The announcement was made soon after Gen. Raoul Salan, France's commander-in-chief in Algiers, paid tribute to De Gaulle in a speech in riot-torn Algiers.
In the same speech, Salan placed his 400,000-man army in Algeria squarely behind the Algiers military junta - the military-civilian "Committee of Public Safety" that has seized control of Algiers.
"I am one of you," Salan said when he appeared with junta leaders before a crowd of French settlers who massed before the governor's palace in Algiers shouting, "The army to power!"
Only yesterday both Premier Pflimlin and President Rene Coty ordered Salan to take over in Algeria and end the threat to the authority of the tottering Fourth Republic.
Salan's statement threatened to add fuel to the already explosive situation in Algeria and France.
It was likely to embolden the hard-bitten French settlers in their struggle to bring down the Pflimlin government and set up a dictatorship, perhaps under De Gaulle.
Last night the insurrectionists beat French Governor General Pierre Lambert in Oran, kicked him out of office and replaced him with a general.
Pflimlin assured France in a special broadcast yesterday that Salan was firmly on the side of the Republican regime and had been ordered to re-establish "Republican order" in riot-torn Algeria.
Salan did not publicly acknowledge the power vested in him by Pflimlin, and today he brought frantic cheers from the rebellious Algerian French with his new declaration.
Some observers said Pflimlin may have made the statement only to avoid bloodshed and keep tempers down while a compromise was being worked out between the junta and Paris. But the crowd took his latest words at face value.
Pflimlin had warned the National Assembly Tuesday that France stood on the brink of civil war.
In Paris Pflimlin tried desperately to shore up his shaky government to deal with the crisis.
Pflimlin offered the job of vice premier to Socialist former premier Guy Mollet. He accepted.
The key interior and defense ministries also were expected to go to Socialists - probably Jules Moch, Albert Gazier or Robert Lacoste.
Paratroop Gen. Jacques Masu, who seized power at the height of a "keep Algeria French" riot on Tuesday, strongly hinted that the next move should be the return of iron-fisted Robert Lacoste as French minister-resident.
Pflimlin had named the more liberal Andre Mutter to the post - an important one which controls the struggle against the Moslem rebellion. The Tuesday rebellion against Pflimlin was sparked by the appointment of Mutter.