Brushing aside talk of resignation, Dominique de Villepin has issued the latest of his almost daily denials of guilt, as claims of a political smear campaign continue to grip France. What has been dubbed the “French Watergate” was a key talking point at the prime minister’s monthly press conference. There, he maintained that the name of Nicolas Sarkozy was not brought up at a key meeting at the centre of the scandal, although the premier conceded his government colleague was mentioned in his role as interior minister.Either Sarkozy or de Villepin could represent the centre-right in next year’s presidential election. The allegations of a smear campaign date back to 2004,something highlighted by the premier. “What I want is for the reasoning of today, with today’s rivalries that are sometimes highly artificial and fabricated, not to be tacked onto that period,” he told reporters.