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Villepin censures Sarkozy at start of slander trial

The former French prime minister Dominique de Villepin lashed out at Nicolas Sarkozy at the start of a slander trial involving alleged dirty tricks by politicians and businessmen. "I am here because of the determination of one man. Nicolas Sarkozy," Mr Villepin, one of four defendants, said.

The President, one of 40 plaintiffs, claims that Mr Villepin was behind a smear campaign aimed at thwarting his 2007 election bid.

Mr Villepin is accused of complicity in slander and complicity in forgery. "I will emerge free and clear," he said. "I know that truth will triumph."

A list of clients who allegedly held secret accounts with the Luxembourg clearing house Clearstream is behind the action. Mr Sarkozy was among those named on the list. The accounts were allegedly created to hold bribes from a 1991 sale of warships to Taiwan, among other shady income.