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Lawyer: Libyan ex-PM claims Sarkozy funding

Associated Press Modified: May 3, 2012 at 3:45 pm •  Published: May 3, 2012

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — A former Libyan prime minister claims Moammar Gadhafi's regime financed French President Nicolas Sarkozy's 2007 election campaign, according to his lawyer. Sarkozy vehemently denies the allegations.

The accusations of a staggering €50 million in illegal financing come at a rough time for Sarkozy, who had an up-and-down relationship with the late Gadhafi's Libya and is trailing in polls ahead of a presidential election Sunday.

Sarkozy is suing a French website that says it has proof of a €50 million funding offer from Gadhafi's government — a figure that is more than double the overall financing limit for French presidential candidates.

Bechir Essid, a lawyer for former Libyan Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi Al-Mahmoudi, told The Associated Press on Thursday that his client told him the funding operation "took place." He offered no proof to back up the claim.

Al-Mahmoudi is in a jail near Tunis awaiting possible extradition to Libya. He fled Libya after rebels overthrew Gadhafi, and was arrested in September in Tunisia.

The lawyer said his client fears being handed over to the new Libyan authorities. Some human rights groups have argued against his handover, saying his life could be threatened.

The first claims of illegal Libyan funding for Sarkozy's first presidential bid came from Gadhafi's son Seif al-Islam, days before NATO-led airstrikes began in March 2011 to push Gadhafi from power.

Last week, French news website Mediapart said it obtained a 2006 document signed by Libya's then-intelligence chief Moussa Koussa offering to spend €50 million for Sarkozy's 2007 campaign.

Ex-premier Al-Mahmoudi confirmed the existence of the document, according to his lawyer, and said the money was later handed over. The former Libyan premier gave no other details, the lawyer said.

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