French minister quits party treasurer job over cash scandal

13th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

France's Labour Minister Eric Woerth said Tuesday he would step down as treasurer of the ruling UMP party after a scandal over allegations of illegal donations by France's richest woman.

Woerth told reporters of the move after a cabinet meeting at which he launched a key pensions reform bill.

"I am going to look at the calendar... I am going to do it, of course."

President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a televised interview on Monday that he would advise Woerth to give up his job as treasurer, which had fuelled the scandal over the fortune of L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt.

The president insisted however that as labour minister Woerth would still lead the pensions reform which Sarkozy hopes will be passed by the end of October.

Bettencourt's former accountant has accused Woerth of accepting 150,000 euros (190,000 dollars) from the 87-year-old billionaire as chief fundraiser for Sarkozy's 2007 presidential campaign.

Woerth and Sarkozy have firmly denied this and accused the media and opposition if mounting a smear campaign.

Woerth was also accused of a conflict of interest since his wife worked for a company managing Bettencourt's fortune while he was budget minister tasked with fighting tax dodgers.

A government report cleared Woerth of accusations that he helped Bettencourt evade taxes, but police probes into her affairs have been launched.

© 2010 AFP

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