So just exactly who said what?
French President Nicolas Sarkozy today hit back at the disgraced ex-IMF director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, saying the former French Socialist titan should take allegations that he was the victim of a political setup to court.
It had appeared Friday, that Strauss-Kahn had told the British newspaper The Guardian that his arrest for alleged sexual assault last year in New York had been manipulated by French conservatives hoping to undermine a challenge in this year's elections.
(DSK had been favored to beat Sarkozy, who is instead facing a tough challenge in Socialist candidate Francois Hollande, according to Agence France-Presse.)
But Le Monde and AFP report today that Strauss-Kahn has denied ever speaking to The Guardian or to the author of the article, Edward Epstein, also the author of a forthcoming book on the Strauss-Kahn imbroglio in New York.
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According to The Guardian article, Strauss-Kahn said that, although he did not believe the incident involving Sofitel maid Nafissatou Diallo, was a setup, the escalation of the event into a criminal investigation was "shaped by those with a political agenda." New York prosecutors ultimately dropped the charges against DSK, citing inconsistencies in statements given by Diallo that they said undermined her credibility.
"Perhaps I was politically naive, but I simply did not believe that they would go that far — I didn't think they could find anything that could stop me," Strauss-Kahn told the American journalist Edward Jay Epstein, who wrote the Guardian article and is to publish a book on the matter next week.
Sarkozy, meantime, has challenged Strauss-Kahn to take legal action over his claim, which Sarkozy dismissed as "utter nonsense."
"I say to Mr Strauss-Kahn, explain yourself with judicial authorities and spare the French people your comments," Sarkozy was quoted by AFP as telling supporters in the city of Clermont-Ferrand. "In the midst of an electoral campaign, Mr Strauss-Kahn starts to give morality lessons and indicate that I am the one responsible for what happened to him. It's too much."
But Strauss-Kahn today said the remarks attributed to him had been cobbled together from the book and that he had given "no interview to The Guardian."
"Written in the indirect style, this book moreover contains no quotation between quotation marks from Dominique Strauss-Kahn," Strauss-Kahn said.
Sarkozy is trailing his Socialist rival by around 10 percentage points in opinion polls, according to Reuters.
The second round runoff vote in France will take place Sunday May 6.
Asked whether he thought the former Socialist cabinet member's allegations could be true, Hollande said "I know nothing about the matter," and suggested that Epstein's book — due to be published on Monday — might show "whether there is any reason to call on the judiciary."
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