updated 4/6/2010 5:38:28 PM ET 2010-04-06T21:38:28

Police are investigating who started rumors of infidelity involving President Nicolas Sarkozy and France's first lady that began on a blog and spread to newspapers overseas, the Paris prosecutor's office said Tuesday.

Sarkozy's lawyer, Thierry Herzog, said in a radio interview Monday evening that he did not exclude the possibility the allegations of "totally unfounded liaisons" had been planted in a bid to take down the glamorous couple.

The investigation was opened based on a complaint filed March 25 by the owner of a weekly newspaper whose blog carried the initial rumors that alleged that both the president and his wife, a former top model, were involved in relationships outside their marriage.

Judicial police are handling the investigation, the prosecutor's office said after a complaint was filed for the "fraudulous introduction of information in a computer system," which is against the law in France.

The rumors were seeded in early March amid France's regional elections during which Sarkozy's conservative UMP party registered a resounding loss.

"Tonight, I cannot exclude a plot or that some people, for personal or financial interests ... wanted to try to destabilize the president of the republic and his wife," Herzog said in an interview with RTL radio.

British newspapers were among those that picked up the stories, though the mainstream French press largely shied away — except to write about the flurry of reports in Britain.

Sarkozy's whirlwind romance and marriage in February 2008 to Bruni has been closely watched. It is his third marriage and she, in her younger years, famously dismissed monogamy as untenable.

In the face of the rumors, the couple have portrayed themselves as closely united. They were often seen holding hands during a trip last week to the United States that included a private dinner with the Obamas at the White House.

The blog in question appeared March 10 on the Web site of the weekly newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche. The large media company that owns the Sunday paper, Hachette Filipacchi Medias, filed the complaint, opening the way to the probe. Hachette Filipacchi is owned by the Lagardere group, which is headed by Sarkozy's good friend, Arnaud Lagardere.

A close aide to Sarkozy, Pierre Charon, told the Web site of the newsweekly Le Nouvel Observateur that "we want to get to the bottom of this. ... As the expression goes, fear must change camps."

Reporters at the newspaper took exception to what they said was Charon's threatening tone. A statement from the journalists' union of Le Journal du Dimanche said the paper "has no need to cede to authorities' wishes or to pressure or threats from wherever they may come."

It was unclear why the presidential couple did not initiate legal action themselves once the rumors cropped up.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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