NEW YORK (Reuters) - Those responsible for the crisis that has swept global financial markets should be punished, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said overnight in his first reaction to the latest bout of economic turmoil.
In an acceptance speech at an award ceremony attended by U.S. and French business leaders, Sarkozy called for the “truth” on the crisis to be uncovered.
“Today, millions of people across the world fear for their savings, for their apartment, for the funds they have put in banks. It is our duty to give them clear answers,” he said.
“Who is responsible for this disaster? May those who are responsible be punished and held accountable,” he said hours before he was due to give a speech to the U.N. General Assembly.
The U.S. government has unveiled a $700 billion bailout package for Wall Street firms to rid them of the toxic mortgage-related debt which felled investment bank Lehman Brothers and threatens to wreak further financial havoc.
The plan, which has yet to be approved by Congress, has been criticized by some observers, who argue that it is unfair for the bankers who sparked the crisis not to bear the full brunt of its consequences.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, however, argues that his bailout plan will prove cheaper for taxpayers than leaving companies to suffer the cost of the crisis themselves.
Sarkozy’s comments earned him a lukewarm reaction from the members of the business community who had paid $1,500 to $75,000 each to see Sarkozy receive a “humanitarian award” at a black-tie gala event and eat a light meal.
The French president is due to give an economic speech on Thursday, in which he is expected to speak at greater length on the market turmoil and outline elements of the 2009 draft budget, which will be unveiled the following day.
Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry; writing by Francois Murphy, editing by Mike Peacock