Feuding cabinet ministers to meet and make nice

21st November 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 21, 2006 (AFP) - The top ministers in France's government are to meet to try to stem tensions threatening to divide the ruling party only months ahead of presidential and legislative elections next year, a senior party official said Tuesday.

PARIS, Nov 21, 2006 (AFP) - The top ministers in France's government are to meet to try to stem tensions threatening to divide the ruling party only months ahead of presidential and legislative elections next year, a senior party official said Tuesday.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy and Defence Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie are to sit down for the clear-the-air session "very soon," said the parliamentary leader of the governing UMP party, Bernard Accoyer.

MPs from the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), which is led by Sarkozy, will also attend, he said.

The announced gathering comes as clashes between Sarkozy — the frontrunner to become the rightwing candidate in presidential elections next April — and Villepin and Alliot-Marie create a crisis in the party.

Villepin and Alliot-Marie, both close allies of President Jacques Chirac, who has been involved in a long-running feud with Sarkozy, have been challenging Sarkozy's bid to become the sole UMP presidential candidate.

The face-off has created a split weakening the party even as the opposition Socialists have overwhelmingly rallied behind their candidate, Ségolène Royal.

Accoyer said he organised the meeting so the ministers and party MPs could "exchange their points of view" after the "dissent" of past days which was of concern to the UMP and to voters.

"It will be an informal, friendly and warm meeting," he promised.

Accoyer adding that Villepin and Sarkozy had already assented but that an invitation had yet to be extended to Alliot-Marie.

Surveys show Royal, 53, and Sarkozy, 51, as the frontrunners in the presidential race, well ahead of any other potential candidate.

Chirac, however, has ruled out saying whether he would stand down or run for a third term until early next year, undermining Sarkozy further.

The presidential election is due to be held April 22 next year with a second knockout round on May 6. Legislative elections are due to follow in June.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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