Gulf News

Sarkozy denies any deal with Chirac

SAYS REPORT ‘GROTESQUE’ AND ‘UNTRUE’

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French rightwing presidenti­al frontrunne­r Nicolas Sarkozy yesterday denied a newspaper report that he had agreed to shield President Jacques Chirac from a corruption probe in exchange for his backing.

“It’s grotesque, it’s hurtful and it’s untrue,” Sarkozy said after Le Canard Enchaine satirical weekly published the report, quoting sources close to Chirac.

“I deny it in the firmest and fullest terms,” said Sarkozy during a campaign swing through the Paris suburb of Villepinte.

The weekly reported that “in exchange for Chirac’s support for his candidacy, Sarkozy made a commitment, if he wins, to avoid any judicial backlash for Chirac.”

Baseless

Chirac’s office also denied the report, with an official saying: “These allegation­s, which are absolutely baseless, do not warrant a response.”

Rather than a specific amnesty for corruption, Sarkozy would introduce a provision as part of a new anti-crime bill that would set a 10-year limit on the time a judge has to close a case, the weekly said.

That measure would close the book on three corruption cases that date back more than 10 years, when Chirac was mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995, according to Le Canard Enchaine.

Two cases deal with the illegal use of Paris city funds to pay staff and sym- pathisers of Chirac’s Rally for the Republic (RPR) party, the predecesso­r of the governing Union for a Popular Movement (UMP).

Former prime minister Alain Juppe was convicted January 2004 for his role in that scheme, receiving a suspended jail sentence and a year-long ban on holding public office.

A third case surrounds a Paris printing firm which is suspected of rigging public tender contracts and of funding the RPR via the mayor’s office.

Illegal scheme

Last month justice officials said Chirac, 74, would be questioned after he leaves office in May by a judge looking into the illegal party-funding scheme, although no date had been set.

Chirac’s immunity from questionin­g by magistrate­s ends a month after he steps down on May 16.

Chirac gave his official endorsemen­t to Sarkozy’s bid for the presidency last month, shortly after announcing that he would be stepping down after 12 years in office and not seek a third term.

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