Sarkozy leaves 'stain of shame' on French flag: ex-PM
President Nicolas Sarkozy's crackdown on Roma and Gypsy communities has damaged France's reputation and left "a stain of shame" on the nation's flag, a former French prime minister charged Monday.
"There is today a stain of shame on our flag," Dominique de Villepin wrote in an opinion piece in Le Monde newspaper, in which he called the crackdown combined with Sarkozy's tough new law and order stance a "national indignity."
"If there was any doubt, all one needs to do is read the foreign press, from the United States to India via the European newspapers, to measure the alarm sparked by the unrecognisable face of the country of human rights," he wrote.
"All one needs to do is to listen to the voices that are being raised at the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to condemn the upsurge in racism and xenophobia," said Villepin, a bitter rival of Sarkozy.
Sarkozy's hardline moves "have no other aim but provocation and division in order to assure the conservation of power in the service of personal interests," he said.
Villepin, a likely challenger for Sarkozy in presidential elections due in 2012, accused the president of "a moral fault, a collective fault committed in all our names, against the republic and against France."
Villepin, who won global fame for leading the charge against the US invasion of Iraq at the United Nations in 2003, launched a new centre-right political party in June this year.
In recent weeks French police squads have carried out a series of raids across the country, targeting unauthorised camps of both Roma from Eastern Europe and of French-born Gypsies and travellers.
The raids follow a high-profile bid by Sarkozy to recapture his image with voters as strong on law and order.
But his government has faced a growing chorus of criticism from within France and from abroad over the crackdown.
© 2010 AFP