Page last updated at 17:42 GMT, Thursday, 3 September 2009 18:42 UK

Cameroon defends Biya hotel bills

Paul Biya and his wife Chantal
Paul Biya has been in power in Cameroon for almost three decades

Officials in Cameroon have defended President Paul Biya's controversial holiday in La Baule, southern France.

His trip has been making headlines in France and Cameroon, as he is alleged to be spending $40,000 (£24,500) a day on 43 hotel rooms.

But Cameroon's communications minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary told the BBC Mr Biya had a right to spend money allotted to him in any way he wanted.

The average annual income in the West African country is $1,000.

Mr Bakary told the BBC's Focus on Africa prgramme the reports were an attempt to "destabilise" the country.

"Isn't he free to make a good use of his money?" the minister asked.

"Does he have to give the account of the way that he's using this money to journalists in Paris or here?"

The BBC's Randy Joe Sa'ah in the capital, Yaounde, says Mr Biya and his wife Chantal began their holiday on 15 August after meeting French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Reports in the French press say the couple and their delegation are staying in the five-star L'Hermitage Hotel.

Mr Biya has been president of Cameroon since 1982.

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