Paris prosecutor probes childsex claims against minister

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Paris prosecutors said Wednesday they had launched a preliminary enquiry into claims that a former government minister sexually abused boys at a Moroccan orgy several years ago.

Police child protection officers will carry out the investigation and were expected to interview former education minister Luc Ferry, who made the sensational claims about another former minister, officials said.

Ferry let slip the claim about the politician, whom he did not name, when he appeared on TV on Monday to discuss French sex scandals such as the New York arrest of IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn on attempted rape charges.

Ferry's intention appeared to be to cite an anecdote revealing the extent to which French law prevented politicians and journalists from discussing individual sexual behviour behind closed doors.

But his comments provoked a storm of criticism, with leading political figures piling in to demand that he either provide evidence of wrongdoing to the authorities or else withdraw the claim as unfounded rumour-mongering.

On Wednesday, faced with mounting criticism, Ferry backpedalled in an interview with the website of weekly news magazine L'Express.

"I was trying to defend the press which respects private life and is not guilty of slander," he said. "I have no proof, nor any precise detail about this matter, but when I was a minister I heard about it."

Ferry served as education minister in a previous centre-right government between 2002 and 2004. It was not clear from his comments whether he was accusing a former colleague or a minister in an earlier administration.

© 2011 AFP

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