'Sarkozy threatened to beat me up': ex-minister

6th April 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 6, 2007 (AFP) - A former French minister who has turned against his party's presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy recounts in a new book that Sarkozy once threatened to "smash" his face in.

PARIS, April 6, 2007 (AFP) - A former French minister who has turned against his party's presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy recounts in a new book that Sarkozy once threatened to "smash" his face in.

Azouz Begag, who resigned as equal opportunities minister on Thursday, fell out with Sarkozy because of his tough stance on law and order and immigration.

In a book to be published next week, Begag recounts an episode, just after the 2005 riots, in which he publicly distanced himself from Sarkozy's use of the word "rabble" to describe young delinquents, telling a crowd in Marseille "My name is not Azouz Sarkozy".

"What had to happen happened. He came down on me like a ton of bricks," Begag writes in the book, excerpts of which appear in this week's issue of the French magazine Marianne.

Begag says a furious Sarkozy called him on the phone, yelling: "You're an arsehole, a disloyal bastard! I'm going to smash your face."

"The interior minister told me, in a final threat, never to shake his hand again, or there would be trouble," he writes.

Begag's book is entitled "A sheep in the bathtub", in reference to televised comments in which Sarkozy suggested France needed to teach Muslim newcomers not to slaughter sheep in their homes.

A sociologist by training, Begag joined the government at the invitation of Sarkozy's rival, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin. Of Algerian descent, he says that Sarkozy's allies systematically dismissed him as "Villepin's token Arab".

Before standing down, Begag attacked Sarkozy's call for a "ministry of immigration and national identity" as an "indecent" bid to fish for votes among "the lost sheep of the far-right".

The Socialist Party of Sarkozy's chief rival, Segolene Royal, seized on his resignation as "final proof of the divorce between Nicolas Sarkozy and French people of immigrant origin".

Begag left the government to support the centrist presidential candidate Francois Bayrou.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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