France is not a corrupt country, says Sarkozy
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French President Nicolas Sarkozy has strongly denied allegations that he took illegal cash donations from France's richest woman, declaring "France is not a corrupt country".
Speaking during an hour-long interview on television station France 2, Sarkozy backed Labour Minister Eric Woerth who has also been accused of accepting handouts – alleged to amount to 150,000 euros - from L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt during the 2007 presidential race.
The Labour Minister has also been accused of conflict of interest because his wife helped manage the billionaire's wealth.
"France is not a corrupt country," the president declared. "The political class, left and right alike, is in general honest. French public officials are people of great rigour."
Sarkozy said it was a disgrace to accuse him of visiting Bettencourt's home to pick up illegal cash donations, and suggested those behind the allegations were taking part in a defamation campaign.
"Can you imagine me coming to a dinner in front of the guests round a table and leaving with money...?", said Sarkozy.
The interview comes a day before the Labour Minister is set to present a controversial pension reform plan to the French Cabinet, which would raise the retirement age for public sector workers from 60 to 62.
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