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LIBYA

France backs ‘political solutions’ in Libya: Juppé

France vowed Sunday it would work with the African Union to find "political solutions" to the Libya crisis, but insisted that the ouster of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi was a "key point".

“We … are delighted to say that in Malabo, the summit of the African Union delivered a public statement which is closer (to) the position of France and the coalition than before,” Alain Juppé told reporters in Addis Ababa.

“We agreed that we must now find a political outcome to the situation in Libya and this solution implies a genuine ceasefire and also an inclusive national dialogue between all the parties,” Juppé said.

“The key point is the withdrawal of Kadhafi from power, from his military and civilian responsibilities and we agreed to work all together to reach this goal,” Juppé added.

At its Malabo summit earlier this month the 53-nation African Union was unable to take a position on the future of the Libyan leader, which is a key sticking point between the two sides.

Libyan rebels have flatly rejected an AU peace plan because they said it would leave Kadhafi in power.

Juppé spoke to the press in English, after meeting in Addis Ababa with the deputy chairperson of the AU Commission Erastus Mwencha and the commissioner for peace and security Ramtane Lamamra.

Asked about the strikes launched on Libya by a NATO-led alliance, Juppé insisted the countries part of this alliance were “acting in the legal framework (of the UN resolution) and we think that we fully respect this legal framework”.

“We will continue the military pressure with our partners, our allies, with the support of the contact group,” Juppé added.

In June, France came under fire by some members of the AU for supplying Libyan rebels with weapons and ammunition, a move critics say flies in the face of UN Resolution 1970, which calls for an arms embargo on Libya.

On South Sudan, Juppé said France supports the establishment of a state administration and functioning infrastructure in Africa’s newest nation.

France will also back the development of the country’s oil industry, South Sudan’s key economic asset.

On Saturday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy officially recognised the independence of South Sudan.

Juppé confirmed that France fully supports the International Criminal Court’s indictment of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

The state of Sudan “belongs to the people”, he said, hoping that “democratic rule, a democratic state and rule of law will be respected in the future”.

Juppé was in South Sudan for independence celebrations on Saturday before arriving in Ethiopia, where he met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

In June, Ethiopia and France signed an economic cooperation agreement worth $590 million for water and energy projects in the country, including a scheme to sell power to neighbouring Kenya.

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CORRUPTION

‘I’ll smash my accusers’: Sarkozy comes out fighting over corruption charges

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy vowed to clear his name on Thursday after being charged for financing his 2007 election campaign with money from late Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi, but admitted he was "finished" in politics.

'I'll smash my accusers': Sarkozy comes out fighting over corruption charges
French former president Nicolas Sarkozy speaking during an interview with TF1 on March 22nd. Photo: AFP PHOTO / TF1
“It might take me one, two, 10 years but I'll smash this group (of accusers) and will restore my honour,” he said during an emotion-charged prime-time television interview on Friday evening. “I don't plan to give an inch!”
   
Having already stepped back from a front-line public role in 2016 after he failed with a bid to run again for president, Sarkozy told his interviewer on the TF1 channel that for himself “politics is finished”.
   
In an defiant half-hour performance that saw him shake with indignation at times, Sarkozy frequently referred to his accusers from Kadhafi's regime as “sinister”, “liars” and a “group of killers”.
   
“If you had told me that I would have problems because of Kadhafi, I would have said: 'What are you smoking?'” Sarkozy said at one point, claiming that investigators had not found a single piece of evidence against him.
   
The 63-year-old, who served as French leader from 2007 to 2012, was charged with corruption, illegal campaign financing and concealment of Libyan public money on Thursday evening after two days of questioning in police custody.
 
READ ALSO:
Sarkozy charged with corruption over alleged Gaddafi financing
 
 
Under the French system, charging a suspect means that investigators believe they have strong and corroborated evidence against them, but the defendant can appeal and the case can still be dropped before a trial.
   
The allegations that Sarkozy took money from Kadhafi — whom he welcomed to Paris in 2007 but then helped to topple in 2011 — are the most serious out of several investigations that have dogged him since he left office.
   
“I am hurt deeply as a person, not for me, for my country,” Sarkozy said in his concluding remarks on the TF1 channel. “You can't drag people into the mud because some killers wanted to do it. I can't let them get away with it.”
   
Earlier in a statement released to Le Figaro newspaper, Sarkozy said he had been “living the hell of this slander since March 11, 2011,” when the first allegations against him emerged via Kadhafi's son, Seif al-Islam.
   
He went as far as to blame “the controversy launched by Kadhafi and his henchmen” for his failure to win re-election in 2012, when Francois Hollande, a Socialist, took the presidency.
 
Suitcases of cash?
 
Since 2013, investigators have been looking into claims by several figures in Kadhafi's ousted regime that Sarkozy's campaign received cash from the dictator.
   
In 2011, as NATO-backed forces were preparing to drive Kadhafi out of power, Seif al-Islam told the Euronews network that Sarkozy must “give back the money he took from Libya to finance his electoral campaign”.
   
Sarkozy has dismissed the allegations as the rantings of vindictive Kadhafi loyalists who were furious over the French-led military intervention that helped end Kadhafi's 41-year rule and ultimately led to his death.
   
He has also unsuccessfully sued the investigative website Mediapart for publishing a document allegedly signed by Libya's intelligence chief showing that Kadhafi agreed to give Sarkozy up to 50 million euros ($62 million). The courts have ruled it can be used as evidence.
 
Ex-French President Nicolas Sarkozy hauled in by police for grilling... once again
   
Franco-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine also claims to have delivered three suitcases stuffed with a total of five million euros ($6.15 million) to Sarkozy and his chief of staff in 2006 and 2007.
   
Sarkozy lashed out at the arms broker in his television interview and in his statement, arguing his account contained inconsistencies and accusing him of having “highly suspect characteristics and a questionable past”.
   
The legal investigation is also looking into a 500,000-euro foreign cash transfer to Sarkozy's former chief of staff Claude Gueant and the 2009 sale of a luxury villa to a Libyan investment fund.
   
Le Monde newspaper further reported that other former regime officials have stepped forward alleging illicit financing.
 
First ex-president in custody
 
In 2014, Sarkozy became the first former French president to be taken into police custody, over a separate inquiry into claims he tried to interfere in another legal investigation against him.
   
But he is not the first ex-president to be charged with corruption — his predecessor Jacques Chirac was given a two-year suspended sentence in 2011 for embezzlement and misuse of public funds during his time as mayor of Paris.
   
Sarkozy is already charged in two separate cases, one relating to fake invoices devised to mask overspending on his failed 2012 campaign and another for alleged influence peddling.