Former French Prime Minister Jean Pierre Raffarin has spoken to judges investigating an apparent smear campaign against the conservative frontrunner for 2007 presidential elections. His testimony comes a day after Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie was also cleared for questioning. The scandal implicates current Prime Minister Domique de Villepin, who denies using the secret services to hurt his arch-rival Nicolas Sarkozy and says he too wants to testify. Speaking to reporters he said: “I want to give my testimony because several months ago I myself was the victim of rumours and lies and I want this matter resolved as soon as possible”.
The affair began with anonymous allegations in 2004 that Interior Minister Sarkozy and others had dubious accounts in Luxembourg-based finance house, Clearstream International. The list of accounts quickly proved bogus but the probe went on, leading to complaints by Sarkozy that it was an elaborate attempt to discredit him. The trio of Raffarin, de Villepin and Alliot-Marie recently voiced their opinions about future opposition to Sarkozy’s Presidential campaign.