French Culture Minister Targeted Over Sex Tourism

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France's culture minister is struggling to keep his job amid an uproar about a 2005 book in which he details Bangkok's brothels and the pleasure and freedom of paying "boys" for sex.

Frederic Mitterrand's candid tale came back to haunt him after he jumped to the defense of filmmaker Roman Polanski, currently in a Swiss prison on U.S. charges relating to his sexual liaison with a 13-year-old girl when he was 43.

Mitterrand _ nephew of late President Francois Mitterrand _ is to appear on national television Thursday night amid a threatened police complaint and calls from both left and right for his resignation.

The affair is awkward for France and especially French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose embrace of non-conservatives such as Mitterrand has upset his ruling UMP party. Mitterrand's critics say it's about child sex tourism, which France's government is campaigning against. But it also involves a politician's sex life, which many French consider private business, and a public figure's recognition of his homosexuality.

Sarkozy, who named Mitterrand culture minister four months ago, has yet to speak out about the book. Sarkozy's conservative UMP party is squirming but so far holding firm in defense of Mitterrand.

The far-right National Front party has conceded that it went looking for dirt on Mitterrand after his impassioned defense of Polanski.

"Frederic Mitterrand must resign because his presence in the government as a representative of France is an indelible stain (for) the entire world," National Front vice president Marine Le Pen said Thursday. Le Pen triggered the controversy earlier this week, flagging excerpts of Mitterrand's book in a televised interview.

Leftists have joined in. Socialist Arnaud Montebourg said Thursday that Mitterrand "deliberately acted in violation of national and international laws" and appealed to Sarkozy and Prime Minister Francois Fillon to fire him.

"It is impossible that a minister representing France can encourage violation of his own international commitments to fight sexual tourism," Montebourg's statement said.

The book, "La mauvaise vie" or "The Bad Life," is described as an autobiography and includes anecdotes about his family and his travels. Mitterrand recounts being taunted in childhood by peers and being troubled by his attraction to other boys.

In Bangkok, surrounded by "boys" or "kids" who tell him in broken English "I want you happy," he finds a liberty he never had when he was a child.

"Money and sex, I am at the heart of my system, that which is functioning at last, because I know that no one will refuse me. ... I can at last choose. The Western morality, the endless guilt, the shame that I drag with me, shatter," one passage reads.

Soon after the book came out, Mitterrand said on France-3 television that he was not a pedophile and used the term "boys" loosely.

France Police, a minority police union, announced plans Thursday to seek a judicial investigation against Mitterrand under part of the penal code that makes it a crime to frequent prostitutes who are minors.

The book raised no more than literary eyebrows when it was published, and it drew little attention when Mitterrand was named to the government in June. Until he became France's guardian of culture, Mitterrand was known primarily as a television personality who made eloquent profiles of the famous.

The Green Party distanced itself from the controversy, with national secretary Cecile Duflot warning against lumping together pedophilia and homosexuality.

Government spokesman Luc Chatel attributed it to a political game.

"The very idea that anyone wants to dig into the private past of public officials for political ends is profoundly shocking," he said.

The culture minister's uncle, President Mitterrand, was a classic example of the hands-off policy applied to politicians' private lives by the Fench media and his colleagues, many aware for years of his daughter born out of wedlock _ and whom he introduced to the nation before dying of cancer.

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