France's foreign minister is facing fresh calls to resign over her links to Tunisia's ousted dictator, amid revelations of a property deal between her parents and a close associate of the deposed president.
Michèle Alliot-Marie was already under fire for accepting two free holiday rides in the private jet of the same businessman over Christmas after the start of revolutionary protests – which eventually deposed President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Her father, Bernard Marie, 94, yesterday acknowledged the deal with Aziz Miled but insisted it was a private affair. His daughter denounced what she said was a violation of her parents' private life.
"You may well repeat lies, that will not make them true," Mrs Alliot-Marie told parliament, fending off opposition calls for her to resign.
But pressure for her to step down intensified when her ministry admitted on Wednesday that she had spoken to Mr Ben Ali during her holiday.
"It is simply the job of the foreign minister to have daily telephone contact or meetings with foreign governments," said an aide. The minister had initially insisted she had "no privileged contact" with the former president, and that it was a private affair not related to her job as minister.
Leading the charge for her to resign was Jean-Marc Ayrault, head of the Socialists' parliamentary group, who said: "She has not stopped lying to the French people." If the minister and her husband, Patrick Ollier, a junior government minister also on the Tunisian trip, "had a sense of the state and the interests of France, they would themselves explain all the accusations against them, and resign," he said.
President Nicolas Sarkozy sent her a "message of support" at a cabinet meeting.
Mrs Alliot-Marie, a veteran Gaullist, caused a furore last month by suggesting that France help train Tunisia's feared police in crowd control, as reports came in of officers killing unarmed protesters.