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France's PM de Villepin Lashes Out Against No-Confidence Bid


French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has lashed out at political opponents who are pressing a censure motion against his government.

Mr. de Villepin Tuesday denounced the motion filed by opposition Socialists as based on slander, lies and rumors.

The censure has little chance of passing, because Mr. de Villepin's center-right party, the UMP, controls almost two-thirds of the National Assembly. Still, the motion forces Mr. de Villepin to address charges that he is no longer capable of governing France.

The motion centers on an alleged government smear campaign, known as the "Clearstream affair", that has dominated the French news media for weeks. The Socialists say the scandal has hurt the government's credibility.

News agencies have reported that Mr. de Villepin tried to smear Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy by falsely accusing him of illegally benefiting from warship sales to Taiwan. Mr. de Villepin denies the accusations and insists he will not resign.

The leader of the centrist UDF party, Francois Bayrou, has said he will vote for the no-confidence measure. The small party is usually allied with the government, and Bayrou's decision to side with the opposition has angered the ruling party.

But, Bayrou has also said his decision does not mean the party's 29 other lawmakers will also vote against the government.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, Reuters.