Ex-French PM acquitted in smear plot against Sarkozy

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Paris, Jan.29 (ANI): Former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has been acquitted of plotting to smear long-time rival Nicolas Sarkozy in order to sabotage his presidential bid.

The trial exposed the bitter rivalries and dark underbelly of French politics. It centred on a forged document naming people - including Sarkozy - said to be recipients of bribes linked to illegal arms sales.The list appeared in 2007, just before Mr Sarkozy stood for President, reports The Telegraph.

He and de Villepin had been arch adversaries for years in the fight to win their party's leadership.

Sarkozy believed his rival was behind the deceit and vowed to "hang on a butcher's hook" whoever was responsible.

De Villepin staunchly denied the President's accusations and expressed his relief as he emerged from court with his family.

"Justice has been rendered. I bear no rancour, no grudge," he said. "I want to turn the page. I have been wounded by the image that people have wanted to give of politics, my commitment that has been for 30 years. It is to the future that I want to turn to serve the French and continue in a spirit of togetherness," he said.

De Villepin has reportedly set his sights on the next presidential race in 2012. (ANI)

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