PARIS (AP) _ French first lady Bernadette Chirac, in an interview published Saturday, praised Hillary Rodham Clinton as a model woman for the millennium and a ``standard bearer'' for first ladies the world over.

She also backed Mrs. Clinton in her possible bid for Senate.

``She is so strong, so intelligent, so methodic,'' Mrs. Chirac said in the interview with the daily newspaper Le Monde in Moncton, New Brunswick, site of the summit of Francophone nations attended by President Jacques Chirac.

She referred to Mrs. Clinton while recounting the wishes expressed by several African first ladies to make a difference in their countries. Summit meetings of male leaders need not mean ``vain and superficial'' gatherings for their wives, she added.

``It revolts me to see competent women marginalized or under-used,'' Mrs. Chirac said. ``Hillary Clinton is a standard bearer, a motor for all of us.''

In 1998, Mrs. Chirac hosted a visit by Mrs. Clinton to her native Correze, in central France.

``She is doing something very innovative. She will show the world what a woman, in the year 2000, is capable of doing.''

The New York senatorial campaign that Mrs. Clinton is considering running in ``is going to be exciting.''

``She will be attacked, but she knows how to protect herself _ unlike me. I hope so much that she will win,'' the French first lady was quoted by Le Monde as saying. Mrs. Clinton is still deciding whether to run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Daniel Patrick Moynihan.