Bayonne: French President Nicolas Sarkozy took refuge in a bar on Friday after hundreds of Basque
separatists and opposition Socialist party supporters mobbed
him and some shouted insults and threw eggs.
Riot police deployed outside the Bar du Palais in Bayonne,
in the southwestern Basque region, where Sarkozy was on the
campaign trail to seek re-election in a presidential vote in
April and May.
Some of the protesters jeered and booed and threw eggs at
the bar while others shouted "Nicolas kampora!", which in the
Basque language means "Nicolas get out!", and threw out tracts
calling for more Basque autonomy.
The President was booed from the moment he got out of his
car in the centre of the city and was followed by a jeering
crowd all the way to the bar, where he had been scheduled to
meet with local voters.
He remained in the bar for an hour while police held off
the protesters, some of whom were brandishing the electoral
programme of the Socialist candidate Francois Hollande.
Sarkozy, who was due in Brussels later today for a
European Council meeting, condemned the incident and put the
blame partly on the party of his front running rival.
"I am saddened to see Hollande`s Socialist militants
associating with (Basque) separatists in violent protests to
terrorise ordinary people who want just one thing: to meet and
talk with me," said.
His campaign spokeswoman Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet
accused the Socialists of organising "street protests" against
But Manuel Valls, a senior member of Hollande`s campaign
team, said that while his boss condemned any violence, no
Socialist was involved in the Bayonne incident.
The Basque region straddles southwestern France and
ETA, a separatist movement which called an end to its
armed struggle last year, is blamed for 829 deaths during a
four-decade campaign of shootings and bombings for an
independent Basque homeland.
Hollande was today holding his third major campaign rally
in the eastern city of Lyon.
An opinion poll published Tuesday by IFOP said the
Socialist would take 28.5 per cent of the vote in the first
round of the presidential election in late April, against 27
percent for President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen would
come in third with 17 per cent, it said.