French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his Prime Minister François Fillon were under increasing pressure Tuesday to explain the extraordinary protection they have afforded to a former senior Libyan official, Bashir Saleh, identified in a document published by Mediapart as a principal figure involved in the secret funding of Sarkozy’s 2007 election campaign by the late dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Saleh is the subject of an Interpol request for his arrest for extradition to Libya where he is wanted on fraud charges. Despite the Interpol ‘red notice', Saleh continues to live comfortably in France where he was issued with a residency permit after fleeing Libya following the toppling of the Gaddafi regime. Sarkozy claims there is confusion over the identity of the fugitive, while Fillon said he was unaware of the Interpol notice, which is posted to the general public on its website. Louise Fessard and Carine Fouteau report.
Official campaigning for next year's French presidential elections will begin later this autumn, when most of the candidates will finally be declared. Before the flurry of mass rallies and local meetings kick off across the country, Mediapart has been looking at the shadowy security force that polices gatherings by President Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling UMP party. Its members include ex-servicemen from elite army units and former police officers, whose missions apparently go well beyond crowd security alone. Marine Turchi reports.
Socialist Party presidential contender Martine Aubry has denounced rumours about her husband, her health and her private life.
Local elections in France this weekend will provide an instructive test of the strength of parties ahead of next year's presidential elections. The focus will be on the far-right Front National, which opinion polls suggest has recently gained a significant increase in support, and which hopes to maul President Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling UMP conservative right party in a number of regions. Stéphan Alliès details what the elections are about, and what's at stake for the parties involved.