Royal apologises again for Sarkozy comments
French opposition politician Segolene Royal Saturday kicked up a fresh row over President Nicolas Sarkozy's alleged comments about world leaders, issuing an apology for her rival's remarksPARIS - The former Socialist presidential candidate said she wrote a letter to Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero after the Liberation newspaper reported that Sarkozy said at a luncheon with lawmakers on Wednesday that Zapatero was not very smart.
"Perhaps he's not very clever but I know people who were very clever and who didn't make the second round of the presidential election," sources quoted Sarkozy as saying.
Royal assured her fellow Spanish socialist that "these words have nothing to do with France, nor the French," she said in a statement, adding that the French president should "control his language and behaviour in order not to affect the interests of France."
The Elysee presidential office has denied the remarks reported by Liberation, which touched off a media buzz around Europe on Friday. Sarkozy also allegedly commented on other world leaders including "charismatic" US President Barack Obama saying he was "not always up to standard on decision-making and efficiency."
Several parliamentarians present at the lunch claimed Sarkozy's comments were taken out of context.
For Royal, who lost her presidential bid to Sarkozy in 2007, it was not the first time she has apologised for comments her rival has made.
On a visit to Senegal earlier this month, Royal apologized to Africans for a 2007 speech by Sarkozy suggesting Africa was backward.
"Sorry, sorry for these humiliating words which should not have been said," Royal told hundreds of people at a local Socialist Party gathering in Dakar.
Sarkozy's speech delivered on his first trip to Africa of his presidency outraged African politicians and commentators who slammed it as a throwback to colonialism and riddled with stereotypes.
Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has acknowledged that Sarkozy's remarks could be construed as "tactless" but he also accused Royal of seizing on an episode that was long over to get publicity.
On Saturday, officials of Sarkozy's UMP party were quick to accuse Royal of political grandstanding.
"We see clearly how she is a master of manipulation as she manipulates words which the president denies, just to draw attention to herself," UMP secretary general Xavier Bertrand told AFP.
"She has shown her true nature: a woman obsessed with ambition who does not recognise the voters' choice in 2007," said deputy UMP spokesman Dominique Paille.
In Madrid, a spokesman for Zapatero said the Spanish premier had no comment on the matter and did not know whether the letter from Royal had arrived at his office.