Francois Hollande`s scandal-hit right-hand man wins backing

French President Francois Hollande`s under-fire chief of staff won government backing on Wednesday amid calls for him to step down over a scandal involving former leader Nicolas Sarkozy.

AFP| Updated: Nov 12, 2014, 20:42 PM IST

Paris: French President Francois Hollande`s under-fire chief of staff won government backing on Wednesday amid calls for him to step down over a scandal involving former leader Nicolas Sarkozy.

A government spokesman said Jean-Pierre Jouyet "is Secretary General at the Elysee. He is staying."

Hollande`s right-hand man, the 60-year-old Jouyet has a foot in both main political camps in France having also served as a junior minister in Sarkozy`s centre-right government.

The long-time friend of the Socialist president has come under pressure to resign after becoming embroiled in a media scandal involving Sarkozy and his former prime minister, Francois Fillon.

According to a report in Le Monde daily, Jouyet told journalists about a lunch he had with Fillon earlier this year during which the former PM allegedly urged him to "quickly hit" Sarkozy over a campaign funding scandal.

Fillon, a rival of Sarkozy to be the centre-right candidate in the 2017 presidential election, denies saying that and has threatened to sue Jouyet and Le Monde for defamation.

Jouyet initially denied discussing Sarkozy`s legal troubles at the lunch, then changed his story a few days later.

But Environment Minister Segolene Royal also rode to Jouyet`s rescue saying: "I think we need to move on to other topics."

"The French people are a bit surprised at the time we spend ... on incomprehensible and violent polemic," added the minister.

Fillon is taking legal action to ensure that a full copy of a tape of Jouyet`s interview with the two Le Monde journalists is made public.