Paris: French President Nicolas Sarkozy challenged former IMF boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn on Saturday to take legal action over his allegation that "political enemies" scuppered his presidential bid last year by ensuring his sexual encounter with a New York maid was made public.
Strauss-Kahn, who was the runaway favourite for the Socialist party`s presidential nomination before his arrest last May on sexual abuse charges, told London`s Guardian newspaper he was convinced his political downfall was choreographed by his political enemies.
The Guardian`s website said that while Strauss-Kahn does not believe his opponents set up the encounter with hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo, he believes operatives linked to Sarkozy played a role in making sure that she went to the police, sparking a major international scandal.
"I say to Mr Strauss-Kahn, explain yourself with judicial authorities and spare the French people your comments," Sarkozy told a rally in the central French town of Clermont-Ferrand ahead of next weekend`s presidential second round.
"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!"
Amid frustration at economic stagnation and with unemployment running at a 12-year high, Sarkozy trails his Socialist rival Francois Hollande by around 10 percentage points in opinion polls.
Strauss-Kahn`s dramatic arrest last May as he boarded a plane bound for Europe shattered his hopes of winning the presidency and forced his resignation from the IMF days later.