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French presidential rivals step up bid for extra votes

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French presidential rivals step up bid for extra votes


Putting past in-fighting between them, French presidential frontrunner Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin have posed together for the cameras. While securing support from outside party ranks is now crucial to Sarkozy’s campaign, the public show of unity was a chance to display that all is well within his own conservative political grouping.

“It is very important for me to be able to rely on Dominique de Villepin’s experience and talent,” said Sarkozy, who topped Sunday’s first-round vote. He said party unity had rarely been so perfect. Sarkozy’s second-round rival, Ségolène Royal, has been boosting her bid to win key votes from the centre ground.

She met ex-European Commission president Jacques Delors, who has backed her call for dialogue with centrist leader Francois Bayrou. The Socialist candidate repeated her invitation to Bayrou to take part in a public debate to see if they can find common policies.

Third-placed Bayrou won the votes of nearly seven million people on Sunday. They are believed to hold the key to the outcome of the final ballot on May 6.

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