Attali denies Mitterrand wants book withdrawn

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The Independent Online
PARIS (Reuter) - The disgraced international banker Jacques Attali denied a report yesterday that President Francois Mitterrand of France wanted him to withdraw a disputed book from sale and apologise for alleged plagiarism.

The International Herald Tribune newspaper said yesterday that President Mitterrand wanted Mr Attali, his former chief aide, to withdraw the disputed book, Verbatim, some passages of which he has acknowledged taking from interviews which the Nobel Prize-winning author Elie Wiesel had had with the President. Mr Attali's lawyer, Yves Baudelot, said in a statement: 'We deny that Jacques Attali or his publisher had ever received the slightest request by the President to withdraw any passage of Verbatim, much less to withdraw the book itself.'

Controversy has raged over the 960-page work since Mr Wiesel accused Mr Attali of lifting 43 lengthy quotations by President Mitterrand from his interviews and only crediting three of them. The Tribune quoted Mr Wiesel as saying President Mitterrand had endorsed his demands for withdrawal of the book, excision of the disputed portions and apologies from Mr Attali.

President Mitterrand's office declined comment but a spokeswoman for Editions Fayard, the book's publishers, told Reuters: 'It would appear that the (Tribune) report is wrong.' The newspaper said President Mitterrand's aides appeared to be describing the writing of the book as a treacherous act against Mr Attali's former patron.

Verbatim, which has sold 120,000 copies since it was published in May, recounts Mr Attali's years as President Mitterrand's closest aide and confidant between 1981 and 1986. Mr Attali said at the time that the President had read the proofs and raised no objections.

Mr Attali was forced to step down last week as president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development after auditors criticised him for lavish spending on the bank's headquarters and travel.

Odile Jacob, Mr Weisel's publisher, said that passages in which the President discussed his views on religion, death, his family and the Jews were 'stolen' from Mr Wiesel's 1988 conversations and inserted under false dates in Mr Attali's text; the publishers have a manuscript of the dialogue and are to publish it. Mr Attali replied that he arranged Mr Wiesel's interviews and attended them, taking minutes.