Sarkozy ducks 'disgraceful' debate question on Libya cash

Paris (AFP) - Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday ducked a debate question on fresh claims he received millions in campaign funding from late Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi's regime, calling it "disgraceful".

"Aren't you ashamed to repeat claims by a man who has spent time in jail?" Sarkozy retorted during the final television debate among seven right-wing presidential hopefuls ahead of the first round of their primary Sunday.

Sarkozy, who is bidding to recapture the presidency in next year's election, has for years been dogged by allegations that he accepted millions from Kadhafi during his successful 2007 run for the top office.

On Tuesday, Franco-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine said he had delivered three cash-stuffed suitcases from the Libyan regime toward the Frenchman's first presidential bid.

Takieddine has been convicted "countless times for defamation," Sarkozy fumed, calling him a "liar".

Declining to answer the question from a France 2 presenter, he suggested it was beneath the dignity of a public television network.

Takieddine told the Mediapart investigative news site he made three trips from Tripoli to Paris in late 2006 and early 2007 with cash for Sarkozy's campaign.

Each time he carried a suitcase containing between 1.5 and two million euros ($1.6 million and $2.1 million) in 200-euro and 500-euro notes, Takieddine told Mediapart, saying he was given the money by Kadhafi's military intelligence chief.

Takieddine, a middle man in huge arms and petrol contracts between France and several Middle Eastern countries, was briefly placed in preventive custody in 2013 when he was considered a flight risk during an affair related to a submarine deal.

His claims caused fresh embarrassment for Sarkozy, who is trailing former premier Alain Juppe in the race for the right-wing presidential nomination.

The nominee is expected to go on to win the presidency.