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Kouchner Rejects Allegations of Unethical Ties to African Regimes

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on Wednesday angrily rejected accusations in a new book that there was a conflict of interest in his former business links with African governments.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner

Kouchner, France's most popular politician, faces uncomfortable questions about his past

Speaking in the French parliament on Wednesday, Kouchner vehemently denied the allegations, telling lawmakers he had never acted beyond the bounds of the law and had never used his public role for private gain.

The allegations made in the book, "The World According to K," by investigative journalist Pierre Pean, concern Kouchner's activities as a private consultant on health policy before he was appointed French foreign minister.

It claims two consultancies run by associates of Kouchner were paid nearly $6 million (4.7 million euros) by the governments of Gabon and Congo for reports written by him.

Pean, a journalist at France's Le Monde newspaper, claims some of that money was paid after Kouchner was named foreign minister in May 2007, saying it amounted to a conflict of interest with his public role.

Accusations at odds with Kouchner's do-gooder image

Kouchner has rejected the allegations, calling them "grotesque" and "sickening."

"At no moment in Gabon nor elsewhere did I make use of my ministerial functions" for private gain, Kouchner said in parliament.

He insisted that, while he had worked as a consultant for African governments before being appointed by President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007, he always acted in "total transparency and total legality."

Kouchner claims to have earned an average of 6,000 euros a month after tax over three years of working for consulting firms.

The book also accuses the French foreign minister of serving American neo-Conservative interests, and of glossing over atrocities by US allies in Rwanda and the Balkans.

Vehicles of humanitarian aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres

Koucher is best known outside of France as the founder of humanitarian aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres

The accusations have come as a shock for many with polls regularly ranking Kouchner as France's most popular politician.

Kouchner made his name when he founded medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres or Doctors Without Border nearly 30 years ago. He was actively involved in peacekeeping and humanitarian campaigns in some of the major crises of the past decade.

On Wednesday, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon defended Kouchner, saying in a statement that "nothing justifies a man's reputation being trampled like that following mere allegations."

Kouchner has blamed murky political motives for the attacks on his reputation, pointing to differences with Pean over who should be blamed for the Rwandan genocide.

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