Sarkozy backs minister, offers conflict of interest inquiry

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President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday backed Labour Minister Eric Woerth who has been engulfed in a scandal involving France's richest woman but called for a conflict of interest inquiry.

"Eric Woerth is an honest man, a competent man. He enjoys my full confidence," Sarkozy said in an interview to French television.

Woerth has been hit by allegations of conflict of interest after taped conversations last month revealed that L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt allegedly plotted to evade taxes.

Woerth's wife worked as a wealth manager for Bettencourt but quit last month when transcripts of the secret tapes caused the uproar that targeted the minister.

Sarkozy said he would ask parliament to set up a commission to look at drafting guidelines "to avoid in the future all forms of conflict of interest."

© 2010 AFP

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