After a full day of answering questions, the French Prime Minister continues to be grilled by judges probing an alleged smear campaign. Dominique de Villepin arrived for the hearing amid tight security. He has declared himself happy to help clear up a case in which, he says, many lies had been told. As the premier is only being heard as a witness, he cannot face charges.
The so-called Clearstream affair involves bogus claims that a number of senior figures held secret accounts in the Luxembourg-based clearing house. The money in them was said to be linked to a bribe- ridden sale of frigates to Taiwan, 15 years ago.
Featuring in the list of names and accounts – since exposed as fake – was de Villepin’s government colleague and fierce rival within the political right Nicolas Sarkozy. De Villepin, who ordered investigations into the Clearstream case, denies it was an attempt to discredit his colleague, who is the conservatives’ frontrunner for next year’s presidential election.