24 Nov 2010

Reporters fail to check facts - Sarkozy

9:29 pm on 24 November 2010

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is embroiled in another row with the French media after accusing reporters of failing to check facts and labelling one from a weekly news magazine a "paedophile".

The BBC reports Mr Sarkozy's patience snapped while he was being quizzed about his role in the sale of three French submarines to Pakistan in 1994.

Magistrates are investigating accusations that bribes were promised to politicians in France.

Asked about this, Mr Sarkozy accused reporters of failing to check facts.

To link him to the affair would be as absurd as for him to call a reporter a "paedophile", he suggested.

The briefing was given ahead of a NATO summit in Lisbon and his words were recorded by the microphone system.

It is reported his aides pressured organisers to wipe the soundtrack clean to ensure it did not hit the internet.

However, this week, L'Express magazine and other sections of the French media released the president's remarks, despite the "off-the-record" nature of the briefing.

French magistrates suspect kickbacks in the so-called 1994 Karachi-gate affair were paid to the presidential campaign fund of then-prime Minister, Edouard Balladur.

Mr Sarkozy, who was budget minister at the time, was the official spokesman for Mr Balladur's failed 1995 presidential campaign. He has categorically denied any involvement in kickbacks.

But last week, former Defence Minister Charles Millon said he was convinced payment had been made to French politicians.