Sarkozy calls journalists 'paedophiles' for graft question

23rd November 2010, Comments 0 comments

French President Nicolas Sarkozy lashed out when asked about alleged 1995 Pakistani arms kickbacks, saying that if journalists questioned him without proof he might as well call them all paedophiles.

"This is crazy," Sarkozy told journalists Friday on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Lisbon in an exchange that was picked up by French Internet sites late Monday.

"No one among you believes I arranged bribes and kickbacks for submarines for Pakistan, it's unbelievable," Sarkozy said amid allegations the bribes' cancellation led to a 2002 Karachi bombing that killed 11 French engineers.

"And you, I have no evidence against you," he said, singling out a journalist. "Apparently you're a paedophile... Who told me? I have the absolute conviction ... Can you explain yourself?"

Sarkozy was apparently referring to a declaration by Charles Millon, the defence minister tasked in 1995 by then-president Jacques Chirac with investigating the bribes, that he had "the absolute conviction there were kickbacks"

"See you tomorrow, paedophile friends!" the exasperated president said as he walked out.

Witnesses have alleged Sarkozy, budget minister under Chirac's rival prime minister Edouard Balladur at the time of the arms deal, was linked to the commissions. Sarkozy has previously dismissed the case as a "fairytale".

On Tuesday, Defence Minister Alain Juppe, who was Chirac's prime minister in 1995, explained that Sarkozy was under enormous media pressure.

"The president is under such media pressure that from time to time, well... everybody's human," Juppe told RTL radio.

Sarkozy has in the past used unusual expressions to address his critics and questioners, most famously telling a man at an agricultural show in 2008 to "Go away, you bloody idiot" after he refused to shake the president's hand.

© 2010 AFP

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