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Sarkozy faces TV grilling tonight

President will spend an hour answering questions on 'topical issues' including party donations row and pensions reform

NICOLAS Sarkozy is to make a rare pre-summer holiday primetime TV appearance tonight to answer questions about party donations and his pensions reform plan.

The president will face an hour-long grilling by France 2 journalist David Pujadas tonight from 20.15 in the gardens of the Elysée Palace.

The channel said Sarkozy would "answer topical questions" on a range of issues, without singling out the tax and party donations row that has hit his government in recent weeks.

Sarkozy's employment minister Eric Woerth has been accused of a conflict of interest after it emerged that his wife provided tax avoidance advice to France's richest woman, billionaire L'Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, while he was budget minister.

A report published by the Inspection Générale des Finances last night cleared him of any wrongdoing. It found Woerth had not intervened in Ms Bettencourt's tax affairs while he was minister.

The billionaire's former accountant, Claire Thibout, also claimed last week that Sarkozy's UMP party received €150,000 euros in illegal campaign donations from Bettencourt in cash when Woerth was the presidential campaign treasurer. Woerth denies any wrongdoing.

Sarkozy will also use tonight's TV grilling to defend his pensions reform law, which seeks to raise the legal retirement age from 60 to 62 gradually between now and 2018.

Unions are due to strike on September 7 over the plans.

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