Former Prime Minister accuses Sarkozy in Clearstream smear probe

13th September 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Sept 13, 2007 (AFP) - Former French prime minister Dominique de Villepin, who faces criminal charges over a smear campaign targeting President Nicolas Sarkozy, hit back Thursday with a charge that Sarkozy has manipulated the scandal.

PARIS, Sept 13, 2007 (AFP) - Former French prime minister Dominique de Villepin, who faces criminal charges over a smear campaign targeting President Nicolas Sarkozy, hit back Thursday with a charge that Sarkozy has manipulated the scandal.

Villepin, who was placed under judicial investigation in July, launched the counter-attack in a 23-page note delivered to the two judges who questioned him again on the so-called Clearstream affair Thursday.

"What is remarkable is the energy with which Nicolas Sarkozy made himself out to be the victim -- indeed the only victim -- of the affair, and at the same time the speed with which accusations were launched against me, with no element of concrete proof and no more than a pseudo-motive," Villepin said.

The judges suspect Villepin of orchestrating the leak in 2004 of a faked list of account-holders at the Clearstream bank in Luxembourg, which included Sarkozy's name. The names were supposed to have benefited from illegal commissions from arms sales.

Last year Sarkozy declared himself a civil plaintiff in the case, believing that he had been the victim of a plot to derail his bid for the presidency.

In his counter-charge, Villepin said the case had been "privatised in the interests of a single civil plaintiff ... even though nothing suggests ... that Nicolas Sarkzoy was the main target of the Clearstream lists."

Since leaving office in May, Villepin has emerged as an outspoken opponent of Sarkozy -- with whom he has always had tense relations. The pair were for a long time seen as rivals for the ruling party's presidential nomination.

Earlier this month he made a withering attack on Sarkozy's style of government, accusing him of surrounding himself with "shoe-shiners, yes-men and courtiers."

In his note to the judges, Villepin said the origins of the Clearstream scandal were not political but industrial -- centring on an internal turf battle at the European defence group EADS.

The man who leaked the Clearstream lists, Jean-Louis Gergorin, is a former vice-president at EADS.

Evidence that emerged in July also implicated former president Jacques Chirac in an alleged attempt to smear Sarkozy in 2004. Chirac has refused to answer judges' questions as he believes himself covered by presidential immunity.

AFP

Subject: French news

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