Sarkozy urged to testify in Pakistan arms scandal

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Families of French engineers killed in a 2002 bombing attack in Pakistan pressed Thursday for President Nicolas Sarkozy to testify over alleged corruption linked to the deaths.

A lawyer for the families said they had lodged a demand with investigating magistrate Renaud Van Ruymbeke that he question Sarkozy, former president Jacques Chirac and former prime minister Dominique de Villepin in the case.

Van Ruymbeke is investigating parts of a complex case that has spawned allegations of illegal political funding implicating former prime minister Edouard Balladur, for whom Sarkozy served as campaign spokesman in 1995.

"The civil parties insist that Nicolas Sarkozy can be heard, even if he is covered by presidential immunity," the lawyer, Olivier Morice, told reporters.

"Nicolas Sarkozy must remove all ambiguity," he added.

The families suspect that the bombing in Karachi in 2002, which killed 11 French engineers and three others, was prompted by the cancellation of commission payments on sales of French submarines with Pakistan.

On Wednesday French former defence minister Charles Millon confirmed the existence of kickbacks on the arms deals in testimony to Van Ruymbeke, an official said.

French investigative news website Mediapart in June quoted Luxembourg police as saying that a company set up with Sarkozy's approval channelled money from arms deal commissions to fund political activities in France.

Sarkozy and Balladur have repeatedly dismissed the allegations of illegal party funding.

© 2010 AFP

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