November 16, 2014 / 12:22 PM / 4 years ago

France's Hollande backs his beleaguered chief of staff

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande on Sunday backed his chief of staff, who has come under fire after giving contradictory accounts of a conversation with an opposition politician about ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy’s legal troubles.

The conservative opposition has called on Jean-Pierre Jouyet, Secretary-General of the Elysee presidential palace, to resign after he first denied but later confirmed he had discussed Sarkozy’s legal troubles with former prime minister Francois Fillon at a lunch in June.

“Jean-Pierre Jouyet is Secretary-General of the Elysee, and he is a good Secretary-General of the Elysee,” Hollande told reporters at a G20 meeting in Brisbane, in his first public comments about Jouyet.

Newspaper Le Monde has reported that Fillon — who plans to run for president in 2017 — had asked Jouyet to speed up legal cases involving Sarkozy to undermine his political comeback. The affair has dominated news headlines in France in the past week.

Sarkozy is seeking the conservative UMP party’s ticket to run for president again but is implicated in a series of legal cases running from influence-peddling to illegal party-funding. He denies wrongdoing and says he is the victim of a plot.

Jouyet, a former classmate of Hollande at the elite ENA school for public administration, is a longtime Hollande ally, yet he briefly joined Sarkozy’s conservative government in 2007 where he worked with Fillon, who was prime minister at the time.

Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Mark Potter

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