French President Nicolas Sarkozy denied allegations that he tried for years to sell a nuclear reactor to former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
“There was never any question of selling a reactor to Mr. Gadhafi,” Sarkozy told France's Inter radio on Tuesday.
Last week, Anne Lauvergeon, the former chief executive of the nuclear power group Areva, said in an interview with the L'Express newspaper that Sarkozy wanted to sell nuclear [technology] in countries where it was not reasonable, a claim that government spokeswoman Valerie Pecresse has called all fiction.
“Allow me to tell you that if there is one head of state in the world who has not associated with Mr. Gadhafi and who is responsible for his departure and his fate then that is me,” Sarkozy added on Inter.
Critics have blamed Lauvergeon, who is sometimes referred to as “Atomic Anne,” with trying to stir up a political controversy in the lead up to this weekend's presidential elections. Lauvergeon, whose name has been floated for a government minister position if challenger Francois Hollande should win, lost her job last year when Sakozy blocked her reappointment as Areva CEO, according to Reuters. (Areva is majority-owned by the French government).
Sarkozy did invite Gadhafi to Paris in 2007 and signed a nuclear agreement with Libya later that year, but he was also instrumental in getting NATO to back the rebel fighters that defeated, and eventually killed, Gadhafi last October.
His deals with Gaddafi and his shameful hosting of the Libyan leader in Paris remain a smear on France’s record, his opponent, the Socialist leader Hollande, said in an interview with Time magazine. Hollande did say that Sarkozy's role in ousting a dictator he earlier embraced was commendable.
Last month, it was alleged that Sarkozy received €50 million ($67 million) from Gadhafi during his 2007 election campaign through a middleman, Franco-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine.
Both Sarkozy and Takieddine dismissed the claims as lies, saying that “none of this happened, according to France 24.