Twelve days before the start of French presidential elections and the latest news is timed to do damage.
According to a potentially explosive interview published today, the French president was hoping to sell nuclear power to the former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi — as recently as the summer of 2010.
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In the interview published in L’Express, Anne Lauvergeon, former president of Areva, a French conglomerate, mentions in passing that Sarkozy had sought to sell nuclear technology “to countries where this is not reasonable.”
“To whom, precisely?” she is asked.
“For example to Colonel Gaddafi,” she replies. “We played reversed roles. I, who should have pushed for the sale, was vigorously opposed and the state, supposedly the more reasonable, supported this madness. Imagine, if we had done it, what we would look like now!”
“Still, what insistence! In the summer of 2010, I had another meeting at the Elysée [presidential palace] on this subject with [Interior Minister] Claude Guéant and Henri Proglio,” the current head of France’s state electrical utility.
French war planes were among the NATO forces last year that contributed to Gaddafi’s ouster and killing by rebel fighters.
Lauvergeon appears to have cause for personal gripes with Sarkozy, saying he personally delivered the news that she would not win a new term as head of Areva, something she said “disgusted” her. She also claims to have been offered a position in Sarkozy’s government upon his election in 2007 but to have refused.
In January, Lauvergeon accused the presidency of a campaign of “systematic destabilization” against her, according to the Agence France-Presse news agency.
The first round of France’s presidential elections will be held April 22 with a runoff vote held next month.
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Sarkozy is widely expected to lose to his Socialist rival in the second round. Recent polls have the two neck-and-neck, according to Le Parisien, which said Sarkozy was ten points behind Hollande in a head-to-head matchup for the second round.