With Russian tanks only 30 miles from Tbilisi on August 12, Mr Sarkozy told Mr Putin that the world would not accept the overthrow of Georgia, Mr Levitte said.
"I am going to hang Saakashvili by the balls," Mr Putin replied.
Mr Sarkozy responded: "Hang him?"
"Why not? The Americans hanged Saddam Hussein," said Mr Putin.
Mr Sarkozy replied, using the familiar "tu": "Yes but do you want to end up like (President) Bush?"
Mr Putin was briefly lost for words, then said: "Ah, you have scored a point there."