[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 July 2007, 17:54 GMT 18:54 UK
Mrs Sarkozy tries to end card row
Cecilia Sarkozy (right) and her husband, President Nicolas Sarkozy
Mrs Sarkozy's credit card was used for "professional expenses"
The French president's wife, Cecilia Sarkozy, has returned a government credit card in a bid to "avoid controversy" over her right to use one.

Mrs Sarkozy had used the card twice for lunch invitations totalling 401 euros ($546, 271) in the six weeks she had it, a government spokesman said.

An opposition MP complained to the government on Tuesday that she had no official duties to justify having one.

The president's chief-of-staff said it was issued for the sake of convenience.

"I proposed the card for Cecilia Sarkozy," Emmanuelle Mignon told the newspaper Le Monde.

"I thought it was a simpler, faster, more modern method to respond to her professional expenses, such as protocol gifts for wives of foreign heads of state, bouquets of flowers or entertainment expenses."

'Very petty'

Questions over Mrs Sarkozy's right to use a presidential credit card were first raised last week by a satirical weekly newspaper, Le Canard Enchaine.

No-one at the Elysee uses credit cards for personal expenses
French PM Francois Fillon

A Socialist MP, Rene Dosiere, then asked Prime Minister Francois Fillon to respond to the newspaper allegations.

"In what capacity does the wife of the head of state have access to public funds, given that she does not hold a position and is not part of the presidential staff," Mr Dosiere asked.

Mr Fillon said the controversy was "all very petty".

"No-one at the Elysee [Palace] uses credit cards for personal expenses," he said.

A French government spokesman, Laurent Wauquiez, said Mrs Sarkozy had given back her card "to avoid any controversy".

Sarkozy soap opera grips Paris
15 May 07 |  Europe
A family campaign in France
01 May 07 |  Europe

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific