France: Sarkozy calls Hollande a `liar`

Polls consistently show French President Nicolas Sarkozy`s Socialist rival Francois Hollande as the clear frontrunner.

Annecy: French President Nicolas Sarkozy used his first re-election campaign rally to launch a blistering attack on his frontrunning Socialist rival, calling him an inveterate liar.

Francois Hollande "lies from morning to night”, Sarkozy told cheering supporters in the Alpine town of Annecy on Thursday, the day after officially declaring his candidacy for the Presidential Election in 10 weeks.

"When you tell the English press that you are pro-market (economically liberal) and when you come to explain to the French that finance is the enemy, you are lying, you are lying from morning to night," he said.

The President was referring to an interview in The Guardian published on Monday in which the Socialist favourite said he wanted to reassure the City of London that it need not worry about his plans to regulate the financial world.

Hollande said in his first campaign rally late last month that the "enemy" was "the world of finance”.

Polls consistently show Hollande as the clear frontrunner and, with the first round of voting on April 22, the election is shaping up to be a classic two-horse race between right and left.

Sarkozy came out in fighting form in his Annecy rally, praising his achievements in his five years in office and vowing to carry on reforming.

"In five years, France has changed a lot," thanks to his government`s actions, the 57-year-old said.

Many analysts say the right-winger failed to deliver on many of his reform promises but Sarkozy produced a long list that he said showed his mandate had been a success.

These included an overhaul of universities, lowering retirement age from 62 to 60, limiting the impact of public sector strikes, and moves to dismantle the 35-hour working week.

Sarkozy set the stage for his re-election campaign last week with a newspaper interview that laid out a conservative social agenda that includes opposition to gay marriage and euthanasia and plans to restrict immigration.

He returned to right-wing themes yesterday in Annecy, and reiterated his promise to hold a referendum on restricting the right to unemployment benefits.