French President Nicolas Sarkozy has rejected claims from Dominique Strauss-Kahn that agents loyal to Sarkozy had a hand in politicizing a sex scandal last May that cost the former IMF boss his job.
Nicolas Sarkozy adopted a combative tone on the campaign trail in central France on Saturday, saying that former IMF director general Dominique Strauss-Kahn should file a legal complaint if he believes that he was the victim of a political plot. The remarks followed claims by Strauss-Kahn that after a sex scandal last May in New York, "those with a political agenda" had orchestrated the event's aftermath.
"Enough is enough! I would tell Mr. Strauss-Kahn to explain himself to the judicial authorities and spare the French people his remarks," Sarkozy told thousands of supporters at a rally in Clermont-Ferrand.
"I profoundly respect the presumption of innocence but when one is accused of what [Strauss-Kahn] is accused of, if one has a modicum of dignity, one has the decency to keep quiet and not to add to that indignity," Sarkozy said.
In a story published on the British Guardian newspaper's website on Friday, Strauss-Kahn was quoted as saying that "more was involved here than coincidence," referring to the handling of his May 13 arrest after allegedly sexually assaulting a hotel maid at the French-owned Sofitel on Manhattan island.
The former IMF boss did not dispute that the incident occurred - he says his encounter with Guinean national Nafissatou Diallo was consensual - but implied his political enemies subsequently ensured that he was first held without the possibility of bail and then confined to house arrest at a New York residence; developments that contributed to his withdrawal from public life.
Hollande holds tongue
"Perhaps I was politically naïve, but I simply did not believe that they would go that far - I didn't think they could find anything that could stop me," Strauss-Kahn told the US journalist Edward Jay Epstein, who wrote the article and will publish a book on the matter next week. Epstein wrote that it was clear in the context of their two-hour conversation that the "they" referred to allies of Sarkozy.
Prior to his arrest and resignation from the IMF, Strauss-Kahn was considered the frontrunner for the Socialist nomination for the French presidency. He says in the article that he had planned to announce his bid for France's top political job on June 15, 2011.
The second round runoff vote in France will take place Sunday May 6. Incumbent Sarkozy currently trails Socialist candidate Francois Hollande by almost 10 percentage points in the polls.
Sarkozy criticized the timing of Strauss-Kahn's comments, his first substantive interview on the matter since last year's arrest, as unsuitable – also alluding to other criminal cases, including alleged involvement with a prostitution ring in the northern city of Lille, against "DSK" in Saturday's campaign speech.
Hollande said in an interview on Saturday with Radio J that he had "no information" on Strauss-Kahn's case and therefore would not comment. Asked whether he thought the former Socialist cabinet member's allegations could be true, Hollande said "I know nothing about the matter," and suggested that Epstein's book - due to be published on Monday - might show "whether there is any reason to call on the judiciary."
msh/nrt (AFP, Reuters)