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Paris police snooped on Socialist presidential hopeful's partner, paper claims

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President Nicolas Sarkozy’s allies hit back Wednesday after reports that secret police have drawn up a report on the partner of the man most likely to defeat him in next year’s presidential election.

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Interior Minister Claude Guéant on Wednesday announced that he will sue L’Express, the magazine that broke the story, but its editor-in-chief, Christophe Barbier, stood by the report.

Spate of high-profile trials in France

On Tuesday L’Express’s website cited sources at several levels of the Paris police saying that “handpicked members” of the intelligence section of the city’s police had investigated Paris Match journalist Valérie Trierweiler at the beginning of 2011.

The inquiry paid particular attention to her personal contacts, the report said.

Trierweiler is the current partner of François Hollande, the would-be Socialist presidential candidate who is set to win the party’s primaries this weekend if opinion polls prove correct.

Hollande previously lived with Ségolène Royal, the Socialist candidate in the last presidential poll who is also trying to win the party’s nomination for 2012. They had four children together before splitting up.

The Paris police have denied the claim but Trierweiler’s lawyer said Wednesday that she was “very shocked” and that the denial did not set her mind at rest.

Dossier - The Bettencourt scandal

While saying that he would wait for proof that the story was true, Hollande declared that if they are “it tells us a lot about the way the right is planning to run this [presidential] campaign”.

Sarkozy’s UMP hit back Wednesday, with party chief Jean-François Copé of exploiting the claim in posing as a victim.

And, claiming that recent weeks have seen “a surge of slanderous insinuations, unproved accusations, amalgams”, Guéant announced that he will sue L’Express for defaming a public institution and spreading false reports.

The latest row has blown up as an investigation tries to find the sources journalists from Le Monde newspaper working on the scandal over the heritage of L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt.

A recently published book, Sarko m’a tuer, assembles the story of dozens of people who claim to have been victims of vendettas launched by Sarkozy and his allies.

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