A spokesman for President Valery Giscard d'Estaing today dismissed allegations that the French president accepted diamonds from deposed emperor Bokassa of the Central African Empire as "defamation" of character.
He said the accusations were an "orchestrated campaign" being carried out by newspapers allied with Giscard's political opposition.
Nevertheless, the spokesman, Pierre Hunt, refused to answer whether the president had received the gems as was first charged by the satirical weekly Canard Enchaine. along with its story about the alleged gift yesterdaythe weekly printed a photograph of what was purported to be a 1973 letter from the then President Jean Bedel Bokassa to the Central African Diamond Authority instructing it to prepare a packet containing 30 carats of diamonds for Giscard, then serving as France's finance minister.
The issue seems to have already taken on a life of its own, with a raft of ironic comments on radio talk shows and in private conversations.
Nevertheless, it seems unlikely that there will be any parliamentary investigation as called for the Socialist leader Francois Mitterrand.
A high-level member of the Gaullist Party, whose votes would be needed in the National Assembly to form an investigation committee, said that what the press already is calling "the Bokassa diamonds affair" was not mentioned directly today at a strategy session attended by party leader Jacques Chirac.
There were many private comments by political insiders to the effect that too many French politicians have skeletons in their own closets to take the risk of pushing for an investigation.
The communists also made it clear that they do not want Mitterrand, with whom they have been feuding, to benefit politically from any inquiry. Communist parliamentary leader Robert Ballanger said that it is "in the interest of France" that the president's office issue a denial.
But it did not do so.
"i don't believe that it is dignified for the office of the presidency," said spokesman Hunt, "to have to justify itself or to give replies to reports that are more in the nature of defamation or of an orchestrated campaign than of serious information."
The three Paris progovernmental newspapers, Figaro, Aurore and France-Soir, all controlled by press lord Robert Hersant, ignored the diamond allegations when they came out yesterday. Today, Figaro said that Giscard would give all the gifts he has received as president to a charity at a time of his choosing. France-Soir, said, however, that Giscard's silence "in conformity with the dignity of his supreme office, naturally leaves room for all speculations."