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French PM to tough out scandal - for now

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French PM to tough out scandal - for now


The French Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin, has said he will not resign over an alleged smear campaign involving top politicians and secret bank accounts. Speaking on national radio he said, “nothing justifies a departure today”.

It comes just hours before he faces a grilling in parliament over the Clearstream affair. Both Villepin and President Jacques Chirac have denied attempting to implicate the Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy and probable candidate to succeed Chirac. Villepin added he would co-operate fully with any judicial inquiry and ruled out any early elections. The affair began when an unknown informer revealed a list of politicians and business personalities that had allegedly set up slush funds in the Clearstream bank in Luxembourg to the French authorities. The list later proved to be false, and of the named politicians in it, Sarkozy’s was the most prominent, and significant, as he is in open competition with Villepin to secure the right’s nomination as their presidential champion in next year’s poll. Last week the investigator, a former secret service head, said he had been told by Villepin, on Chirac’s orders, to dig into Sarkozy. However he retracted that statement today, further muddying the waters.
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