Fri, Mar 18, 2011 - Page 7 News List

Qaddafi’s son says Libya funded Sarkozy re-election

The Guardian, TRIPOLI AND PARIS

In an interview with the Euronews TV channel, Saif al-Islam Qaddafi claimed that Libya helped finance French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s successful re-election campaign in 2007, and demanded the French president return the money to “the Libyan people.”

Libya had details of bank transfers and was ready to make them public, he said, in a move designed to punish Sarkozy for supporting opposition forces.

Last week, the Libyan government threatened to reveal a “grave secret” that would bring down Sarkozy.

The regime is furious at Sarkozy’s efforts to galvanize international action to impose a “no-fly zone” that would prevent Qaddafi from using air power against rebels based in Benghazi.

Asked what he felt about the French president’s so far unsuccessful efforts to muster support for military intervention, Saif said: “Sarkozy must first give back the money he took from Libya to finance his electoral campaign. We funded it. We have all the details and are ready to reveal everything. The first thing we want this clown to do is to give the money back to the Libyan people. He was given the assistance so he could help them, but he has disappointed us. Give us back our money.”

Libya has yet to release any incriminating evidence, but officials hinted last night that they were preparing to do so.

A spokeswoman for the Elysee Palace said she had no information or comment about the claim.

However, Le Monde later quoted a spokesman as saying: “We deny it, quite evidently.”

Well-placed sources in Tripoli made clear that the leak of this information was in retaliation for France’s leading role in the campaign to impose a no-fly zone and for its unique recognition of the rebel Libyan National Council.

“Sarkozy is playing dirty, so we are playing dirty, too,” said a senior Libyan source.

French law places strict limits on party donations to candidates. Last year, Sarkozy was hit by a political scandal involving alleged illegal donations to his party funds by France’s richest woman, Liliane Bettencourt.

Eyebrows were raised when Qaddafi visited Paris in late 2007 and was permitted to pitch his trademark bedouin tent in the gardens of the Hotel Marigny, the 19th-century mansion close to the Elysee Palace. That triggered a storm of adverse comment about the warmth of his reception by Sarkozy on international human rights day.

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