Nicolas Sarkozy vowed Monday to sue a website that claimed Muammar Gaddafi financed his 2007 presidential election, seeking to spin the charge in the crucial final week before France goes to the polls.
Right-wing incumbent Sarkozy is slowly clawing back points from Socialist frontrunner Francois Hollande, whose own presidential bid has been hit by the intrusion of disgraced IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn into the campaign.
Both candidates have been appealing to the 18 percent of voters who chose anti-immigrant candidate Marine Le Pen in the April 22 first round, with Sarkozy riding on the back of rhetoric inspired by her National Front party.
Sarkozy on Monday dismissed as a "crude forgery" a document published by left-wing investigative website Mediapart alleging the former Libyan dictator agreed to give 50 million euros ($66 million) to Sarkozy's campaign in 2007.
"We will file a suit against Mediapart... this document is a crude forgery, the two people supposed to have sent and received this document have dismissed it," Sarkozy told France 2 television.
Sarkozy and his supporters believe that he is relentlessly targeted by "biased" left-wing media, while the incumbent has repeatedly sought to portray himself as a victim now repenting his perceived "bling bling" style.
"There's a section of the press, of the media, and notably the site in question whose name I refuse to mention, that is prepared to fake documents, shame on those who have exploited them," Sarkozy said.
Claims that Gaddafi financed Sarkozy's 2007 campaign are not new, but Mediapart's document bearing the signature of Libya's former foreign intelligence chief Moussa Koussa is.
The letter was addressed to Bashir Saleh, Gaddafi's former chief of staff and head of Libya's 40-billion-dollar sovereign wealth fund, who is currently resident in France.
But Saleh's lawyer said he had "grave reservations" about the document while Koussa, who now lives in Qatar, said: "All these allegations are false."
Hollande said that it was up to judges to decide on the veracity of the Libyan allegations.
"If it's a fake then the site will be found guilty, if it's not a fake then he (Sarkozy) will have some explaining to do," Hollande said, denying any link to Mediapart which Sarkozy has branded "an agency in the service of the left."