Angry Sarkozy denies Gaddafi money gift
France's Nicolas Sarkozy has angrily denied receiving money from deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to fund his first presidential run in 2007, as one news website reported earlier in the day.
Website Mediapart said that the Libyan regime gave €50 million (NZ$80.2 million) to Sarkozy's campaign, citing a document being used to investigate a 2002 bombing in the Pakistani city of Karachi, which killed 11 French citizens.
The report comes just six weeks before the first round of the presidential election on April 22.
"If he (Gaddafi) had financed it, then I haven't been very grateful," Sarkozy said when a journalist asked about the report on TF1 television.
In March 2011, as France and Britain spearheaded air strikes against Libya, Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam told Euronews TV that Libya had financed Sarkozy's 2007 election campaign, which the president's office also denied at the time.
Sarkozy lashed out at the journalist who asked him about the report and al-Islam's claim, accusing her of sympathising with the younger Gaddafi, who is being held by a Libyan militia.
"I am sorry for you that you are the spokeswoman for Gaddafi's son," Sarkozy said, visibly angered by the question.
"Gaddafi, who is known for talking nonsense, even said that there were cheques. Well then the son should just go ahead and produce them then," he said.
Earlier,y Sarkozy's campaign spokeswoman, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, also denied there was anything behind the report, saying that allegations had been repeatedly made but no proof had emerged.
A spokesman for Socialist party challenger Francois Hollande refused to comment on the report beyond pointing out that Gaddafi had visited Paris after the 2007 election.
"Anyone could have been legitimately surprised by how Gaddafi was received by the current government until not that long ago," said Bernard Cazeneuve.
The spokesman added that if Hollande won the election he would lift state secrecy rules regarding the Karachi bombing. French magistrates are examining whether the attack was a reprisal against France's decision to stop commissions on arms sales in Pakistan, and if there was any link to campaign funding during another French election, back in 1995.
Mediapart, staffed by a number of veteran French newspaper and news agency journalists, gained prominence in 2010 when it broke news of a major political funding scandal around Sarkozy's UMP party and L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt.