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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 April 2007, 09:56 GMT 10:56 UK
Sarkozy in row about paedophiles
Nicolas Sarkozy
Nicolas Sarkozy hit back at Jean-Marie Le Pen over immigration
The frontrunner in the French presidential election, Nicolas Sarkozy, has been attacked by rivals for comments he made about paedophiles.

Socialist candidate Segolene Royal said his view that some people were "born paedophiles" was "extremely serious".

Mr Sarkozy, formerly interior minister, leads the ruling centre-right UMP and is tipped to win the first round on 22 April and second round runoff on 6 May.

He has also rowed about immigration with the far-right's Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Centrist candidate Francois Bayrou, currently third in the polls behind Mr Sarkozy and Ms Royal, said Mr Sarkozy's comments about paedophiles were "terribly worrying" and "chilling".

In a weekend interview for Philosophie magazine, Mr Sarkozy said he was "inclined to believe that people are born paedophiles, and it's also a problem that we don't know how to treat this pathology".

Immigrant origins

On Tuesday, he sought to downplay his comments, rhetorically asking "Who can tell me it's normal to rape a three-year-old boy? In relation to that, what is nature and what is nurture? I would refrain from deciding one way or the other".

Nicolas Sarkozy
I am the son of a Hungarian and the grandson of a Greek who fought for France in World War I
Nicolas Sarkozy

Mr Le Pen labelled Mr Sarkozy's comments "absurd".

On the left, the Greens and the anti-globalisation candidate, Jose Bove, accused Mr Sarkozy of preaching "eugenics", while the Communist Party candidate, Marie-George Buffet, said the genetic argument was a "monstrosity" which had served as an ideological basis for Nazism.

Mr Sarkozy has hit back at Mr Le Pen for having said his immigrant origins were a factor in the election.

"I want to say to Mr Le Pen, who has implied that I am not sufficiently French to be president, that yes, I am the child of immigrants. I am the son of a Hungarian and the grandson of a Greek who fought for France in World War I", Mr Sarkozy told a rally in Tours.

"I am a Frenchman of mixed blood who believes that one is French inasmuch as one loves France... France is not a race, it is not an ethnic group".

Mr Le Pen had said Mr Sarkozy was "a candidate who comes from immigration", while he himself was "a candidate of the native soil".

Poll ratings graphic

Flag-waving and anthem-singing in the election campaign

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