Big-spending bank chief crosses words over book

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JACQUES ATTALI, embattled head of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, is fighting allegations that he plagiarised the words of the President of France and a Nobel laureate, writes Leonard Doyle.

Writs were promised in Paris yesterday over allegations that Mr Attali's new book Verbatim borrowed transcripts of conversations between President Francois Mitterrand and Elie Wiesel, a Nobel peace prize winner. Mr Attali is to sue Le Nouvel Observateur, which had published extensive extracts of Verbatim, before accusing him of plagiarism.

Mr Wiesel, whose publisher is to sue Mr Attali's publisher, says he planned to use those passages in a book with Mr Mitterrand. 'The President is in office, and I was not going to publish the book with him as long as he is in office.'

Last month Mr Attali drew criticism when it was learnt his bank had spent twice as much on itself as in loans to eastern Europe.

Verbatim deals with 1982-1986 when he worked at the Elysee as President Mitterrand's closest confidante. Le Nouvel Observateur yesterday accused Mr Attali of using 43 extracts - each 10 to 30 lines long - from the transcript of interviews between President Mitterrand and Mr Wiesel in 1987. Mr Attali held on to one of three transcript copies, made from tape by secretaries at the Elysee.

Mr Attali told the magazine he was present at all conversations with the President bar one. He knew Mr Wiesel was writing a book, but was aware 'that no contract had been signed'. 'I did nothing without the agreement of Francois Mitterrand, who reread line by line the proofs of my book.'