Page last updated at 13:39 GMT, Tuesday, 13 October 2009 14:39 UK

Sarkozy defends son's top-job bid

Jean Sarkozy
Jean Sarkozy, a local councillor, says he has faced "violent personal attacks"

French President Nicolas Sarkozy says his 23-year-old son has been "thrown to the wolves" over a bid to secure a top-level business job.

A national row has erupted over 23-year-old Jean Sarkozy seeking to become head of Epad, which manages La Defense, France's top business district.

Amid calls of nepotism, more than 40,000 people signed an online petition calling for Mr Sarkozy Jnr to pull-out.

Despite the furore, allies of Jean Sarkozy say he is the "natural" choice.

Jean Sarkozy, who is currently a councillor for the wealthy Parisian district of Neuilly, says he has faced "violent personal attacks" in his bid to head the development agency for La Defense, west of Paris.

"Whatever I say, whatever I do, I will be criticised. When you enter this profession, you expect it and prepare for it," he said.

"Being called Sarkozy makes things harder, as is evident from the violent personal attacks I have faced from the outset."

President Sarkozy defended his son, saying: "It is never right for someone to be thrown to the wolves, without reason and in an excessive manner."

'Clan politics'

Following the announcement last week that Jean Sarkozy was favourite to replace Minister for Economic Recovery Patrick Devedjian at Epad, some left-wing politicians have condemned the move as "clan politics".

Socialist parliamentarian Michele Delaunay condemned "a policy of clans, family and personal interests".

Despite cries of nepotism and protests that he is too inexperienced - supporters of Jean Sarkozy say he is a "mature, natural choice" for the role at Epad.

Government minister and spokesman Luc Chatel said: "I am extremely shocked about what has happened. I think we are facing another witch-hunt.

"Being the president's son does not confer any extra rights, but it does not give you any fewer, either," Mr Chatel added.

The choice of who will head Epad will be decided by the organisation's board members in December.

Several major corporations and banks have their headquarters at La Defense, a modern development noted for its skyscrapers.

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