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Friday, 22 September, 2000, 14:17 GMT 15:17 UK
Chirac fends off graft charges
Chirac during interview responding to claims
Calumny, lies and videotape - Chirac dismisses charges
French President Jacques Chirac has dismissed newspaper allegations that he knew of kickbacks paid to his party while he was the mayor of Paris.

In an interview with French television, Mr Chirac described the allegations made by Le Monde newspaper as lies, based on "an abracadabra story".

The allegations were based on a videotaped statement made by a former party official, now dead, who had been the subject of a fraud investigation.

But Mr Chirac said that "everything in this pseudo-message is for me unfounded, lies, calumny and even manipulation".

A man who died over a year ago has been made to speak from beyond the grave

President Chirac
Le Monde had published details of the video confession made in 1996 by Jean-Claude Mery, a former official of Mr Chirac's Rally for the Republic (RPR) party, who died of cancer last year.

In the tape, Mr Mery, a property developer who came under investigation for fraud in 1994, said that building companies had made multi-million franc secret donations to the RPR in return for contracts from the Paris public housing department.

He said this was done with the full knowledge of Mr Chirac, who was mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995 - a period when the city was a stronghold for the RPR.

Timing questioned

In his interview with French TV, Mr Chirac said that the source of the allegations was not a reliable one.

"A man who died over a year ago has been made to speak from beyond the grave.

"A recording has been dug up which was made over four years ago, and which the newspaper itself, which has published the contents, describes as unverifiable and without having any legal value," he said.

This campaign... has a whiff of warmed-up leftovers about it

Chirac ally Francois Goulard

Other centre-right politicians have questioned the timing of the latest allegations.

RPR spokesman Patrick Devedjian suggested the leak of the tape might not be unconnected with the recent poor showing in the opinion polls of Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, who will probably stand against Mr Chirac in presidential elections in 2002.

And the deputy leader of the centre-right Liberal Democracy party, Francois Goulard, also sought to play down the significance of the revelations.

"There is nothing really new in this campaign, which has a whiff of the warmed-up leftovers about it," he said.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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See also:

06 Sep 00 | Europe
Chirac's party colleague charged
21 Sep 00 | Europe
Chirac denies graft allegations
15 Mar 00 | Europe
Conservatives suspend Paris mayor
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