The ghost of the late Muammar Gaddafi continued to haunt the French election campaign yesterday as a poll showed President Sarkozy gaining some ground on the Socialist frontrunner, François Hollande.
Mr Sarkozy announced that he planned to sue an investigative website which had published a document implying that the Gaddafi regime in Tripoli had funded his 2007 run for the presidency. The website, Mediapart, said that it looked forward to revealing all its information on dealings between the late Libyan dictator and Mr Sarkozy during a future libel action.
Whether Mr Sarkozy would fight such a court case as president or ex-president will be decided on Sunday when France votes in the second round of the presidential election. Recent opinion polls have shown the Socialist challenger, Mr Hollande, eight to 10 points ahead of the President. An Ipsos poll published yesterday suggested that Mr Hollande's lead had slimmed to six points, putting him at 53 per cent to Sarkozy's 47 per cent. A narrowing of the gap in the final days was expected, however, and Ipsos pollsters said that everything still pointed to a Hollande victory on Sunday.
President Sarkozy has dismissed Mediapart's allegations of Libyan funding of his 2007 campaign as an act of "infamy" and a "manipulation" inspired by the Hollande campaign. However, confusion continued to surround the affair yesterday. The senior Gaddafi-era official who was supposed to have received the incriminating document in December 2006, Bachir Saleh, is now living in France, apparently under government protection. Mr Saleh, whose extradition is being sought by the new government in Tripoli, has denied that he ever saw the document or was ever involved in illegal campaign funding.
The French Prime Minister, François Fillon, yesterday rejected allegations that France was blocking Mr Saleh's extradition despite an Interpol arrest warrant. He said no such warrant existed. Mr Saleh's French lawyer later admitted, however, that his client was the subject of an Interpol "red" warrant, which had been published on the internet.
Meanwhile, Mr Sarkozy has been attempting to create a coherent philosophy for his abrupt swing to the right since the National Front candidate, Marine Le Pen, scored 17.9 per cent in the first round of the election on 22 April.
In campaign meetings in Toulouse on Sunday and in Avignon yesterday, He said there was a difference between "national feeling" which was "highly respectable" and "nationalism" which was "profoundly dangerous". "Love of country" should not be confused with "hatred of others," he said.