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Nicolas Sarkozy was confronted by hundreds of protesters jeering and booing him, forcing the French President to take shelter in a bar, as he campaigned ahead of April's election.
The bar Mr Sarkozy was sitting in was pelted by eggs and protected by riot police in the south-western town of Bayonne, in Basque country.
The French President said the protesters, who were Basque nationalists and supporters of his election rival Francois Hollande, were "hooligans".
Mr Sarkozy later denounced "the violence of a minority and their unacceptable behaviour" and said he was "saddened to see Hollande's Socialist militants associating with (Basque) separatists".