'Sarkozy threatened to beat me up'
PARIS, April 6, 2007 (AFP) - A former French minister
who has turned against his party's presidential
candidate Nicolas Sarkozy recounts in a new book that
Sarkozy once threatened to "smash" his face in.
Azouz Begag, who resigned as equal opportunities
minister on Thursday, fell out with Sarkozy because of
his tough stance on law and order and immigration.
In a book to be published next week, Begag recounts an
episode, just after the 2005 riots, in which he
publicly distanced himself from Sarkozy's use of the
word "rabble" to describe young delinquents, telling a
crowd in Marseille "My name is not Azouz Sarkozy".
"What had to happen happened. He came down on me like
a ton of bricks," Begag writes in the book, excerpts
of which appear in this week's issue of the French
Begag says a furious Sarkozy called him on the phone,
yelling: "You're an arsehole, a disloyal bastard! I'm
going to smash your face."
"The interior minister told me, in a final threat,
never to shake his hand again, or there would be
trouble," he writes.
Begag's book is entitled "A sheep in the bathtub", in
reference to televised comments in which Sarkozy
suggested France needed to teach Muslim newcomers not
to slaughter sheep in their homes.
A sociologist by training, Begag joined the government
at the invitation of Sarkozy's rival, Prime Minister
Dominique de Villepin. Of Algerian descent, he says
that Sarkozy's allies systematically dismissed him as
"Villepin's token Arab".
Before standing down, Begag attacked Sarkozy's call
for a "ministry of immigration and national identity"
as an "indecent" bid to fish for votes among "the lost
sheep of the far-right".
The Socialist Party of Sarkozy's chief rival, Segolene
Royal, seized on his resignation as "final proof of
the divorce between Nicolas Sarkozy and French people
of immigrant origin".
Begag left the government to support the centrist
presidential candidate Francois Bayrou.