Gabon distances itself from French campaign cash claim

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Gabon distanced itself Sunday from claims that French ex-president Jacques Chirac and prime minister Dominique de Villepin received cash to finance election campaigns from its one-time leader Omar Bongo.

"Our presidency dates from 2009, we deal with matters from that point," a presidential source told AFP, referring to the election of current president Ali Bongo Ondimba that year.

"It's a franco-French matter that does not concern us," said the source, who did not want to be named.

Robert Bourgi, a lawyer and former advisor to Chirac and Villepin, alleged in France's Journal du Dimanche newspaper that the pair received briefcases full of cash from several African leaders.

Villepin, he said, received about 10 million dollars in the run up to a 2002 election campaign.

Bourgi named Senegal's Abdoulaye Wade, Burkina Faso's Blaise Compaore, Ivory Coast's Laurent Gbagbo and Congo-Brazzaville's Denis Sassou Nguesso and Gabon's Omar Bongo.

Villepin, a potential candidate in next year's presidential election, denied the allegations, which claim to shed new light on the French political establishment's often shady relationship with former colonies in Africa.

© 2011 AFP

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