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French presidential rivals shake hands before battle

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French presidential rivals shake hands before battle


Socialist frontrunner Francois Hollande and conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy have shaken hands at an event attended by France’s political elite.

The pair were like best friends on Wednesday as cameras flashed in Paris. But bitter rivalry lies behind the encounter at a dinner for France’s Jewish organisations, two and a half months before the country goes to the polls.

Sarkozy has not officially said he will be standing for re-election. But as he visited a nuclear plant in Alsace on Thursday, no one doubts he will try to hang onto his job. He faces an uphill struggle though, stuck with some of the lowest popularity ratings ever seen by a French president.

In one opinion poll this week, Hollande surged ahead to double his lead over Sarkozy to eight points.

The Socialist hopeful is riding high after a strong campaign launch in late January. But Sarkozy is a seasoned political campaigner and only a fool would write him off.

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