French ex-PM Villepin questioned over Pakistan bomb attack

A French judge questioned former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin about a Pakistani bombing in 2002 that killed 11 French submarine engineers, sources close to the inquiry said.

Last Updated: Nov 30, 2010, 22:11 PM IST

Paris: A French judge questioned former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin about a Pakistani bombing in 2002 that killed 11 French submarine engineers, sources close to the inquiry said.

He was questioned for two hours by anti-terrorist
magistrate Marc Trevidic, who is leading an inquiry into the
attack that has sparked allegations of political corruption
and revenge-taking in France.

Villepin was questioned last Thursday for four hours
as a witness in a separate probe into whether French officials
received illegal payments related to arms deals in 1995.

Witnesses have alleged the Pakistan bombing was
revenge for the cancelling of kickbacks paid to officials in
the arms deals, in a complex case linked to alleged illegal
political funding and implicating President Nicolas Sarkozy.

But Villepin repeated on Tuesday during questioning that he
did not believe there was any link between the attack in the
Pakistani city of Karachi and the stopping of the payment of
the commissions, the source said.

Villepin was chief of staff to then president Jacques
Chirac, who cancelled the commissions after he took office in
1995 because he suspected they would lead to kickbacks to his
political rival Edouard Balladur, a Sarkozy ally.

Villepin is also Sarkozy`s bitterest political rival
and likely to run against him for president in 2012.

Witnesses have also alleged Sarkozy, budget minister
at the time of the arms deal and Balladur`s campaign
spokesman, was linked to the commissions.

The current French leader has angrily dismissed talk
of his involvement as a "fairy tale" and denies any knowledge
of kickbacks.

The bombing in Karachi in 2002 killed 11 French
engineers and at least three Pakistanis. Relatives of the
French victims plan to sue Villepin and Chirac for
manslaughter and have called for Sarkozy to testify.

PTI