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Embattled labour minister to step down as Sarkozy party treasurer

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-07-13

French Labour Minister Eric Woerth has said he will resign as UMP party treasurer at the request of President Nicolas Sarkozy to focus on pension reform. Woerth has been the focus of allegations involving illegal donations to Sarkozy's 2007 campaign.

Embattled Labour Minister Eric Woerth announced on Tuesday that he would step down from his position as the treasurer of President Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling UMP party, though without specifying when. Woerth has been the focus of a suspicions involving illegal donations to Sarkozy's 2007 campaign for the presidency.

Woerth has been accused of accepting an illegal donation of €150,000 from the family of L'Oreal cosmetics heiress Liliane Bettencourt for Sarkozy’s successful 2007 presidential campaign. He also faces a conflict-of-interest scandal as his wife, Florence, was working for Bettencourt’s wealth manager until her resignation last month.

In a TV interview broadcast live from the Elysee presidential palace in Paris on Monday, Sarkozy defended Woerth, saying he had “full confidence” in the labour minister.

"Eric Woerth is an honest man, a competent man. He enjoys my full confidence," Sarkozy said.

Sarkozy says the allegations of illegal party donations, revealed on left-leaning news Web site mediapart.fr, were part of a smear campaign aimed at undermining his plans to reform France's pensions system, which are fiercely opposed by the left and trade unions.

He also said he was advising Woerth to give up his position as treasurer of the UMP party in order to focus exclusively on the reforms, which were a key part of Sarkozy's election agenda and seen as necessary to reduce France’s huge deficits.

Woerth denies any allegations of wrongdoing. A report published by the Finance Ministry's tax inspectorate on Sunday concluded that Woerth played no role in the tax affairs of the Bettencourts, their wealth manager or family friends.

Date created : 2010-07-13

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