French President Nicolas Sarkozy is lashing out at his critics and his leftist challenger Francois Hollande is calling for national unity as the two face off in a highly anticipated presidential debate.

Sarkozy took a firm, critical posture from the beginning of the televised debate Wednesday night. He says he is being unfairly blamed for France's economic problems after years of crisis, and insisted he's not "the only guilty one."

He also denounced those who compared him to France's Nazi collaborators because of his tough campaign rhetoric on immigrants.

The measured, moderate Hollande, the poll favorite for Sunday's elections, called for bringing the country together. He says he has a hard time imagining the hard-hitting, attention-grabbing Sarkozy as a "victim."