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A French news website has claimed President Nicolas Sarkozy's 2007 election campaign was partially funded by the government of the late Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

The Paris-based website Mediapart has alleged the Sarkozy campaign was given an estimated US $66 million.

Mediapart also suggested an official of Gaddafi's regime, intelligence chief Moussa Koussa, authorised secret payments.

In France, politicians are banned from taking funding from foreign states.

Last month, when the allegations were first hinted at, President Sarkozy dismissed them as "grotesque."

He told a television interviewer: "If Gaddafi had funded the campaign, frankly, I would not have been very grateful. When one quotes Mr Gaddafi, who is dead, or his son, who is standing trial, the credibility is zero. And when you drag up their accounts with these questions you are asking, you quite degrade this political debate."

Sarkozy's major political rival, Francois Hollande, has called for a criminal investigation into the fresh allegations, which have come within days of the second round of the presidential election.

Hollande and Sarkozy face a runoff vote for the presidency on May 6th.

Hollande is currently the front-runner.

The report has been described by officials in the Sarkozy party as a diversion orchestrated by supporters of Francois Hollande.