Sarkozy holds out olive branch to Villepin

11th January 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 12, 2007 (AFP) - French presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy held out an olive branch to his rival in the ruling centre right, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, who has refused to back him as candidate for the upcoming elections.

PARIS, Jan 12, 2007 (AFP) - French presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy held out an olive branch to his rival in the ruling centre right, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, who has refused to back him as candidate for the upcoming elections.

"Dominique de Villepin -- I need him too. He is a man for whom I hold esteem and friendship," Sarkozy said after casting his vote in an internal ballot of the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), of which he is party leader.

Sarkozy is certain of victory in the ballot as he is the only person in the race, and expects to receive official designation as the party's candidate for the April presidential election at a congress in Paris on Sunday.

Villepin -- who has a long history of animosity with Sarkozy -- has said he will not vote for him in the party primary, earning the fury of UMP deputies who on Tuesday angrily shouted him down during a caucus meeting in the National Assembly.

"I am not casting any doubt over Dominique de Villepin's good faith. He has his ideas on strategy, and I respect that. I have told him that now we need to be together. Now is the time for unity," Sarkozy said.

Supporters of Sarkozy fear that glaring divisions within the ruling party could derail his bid for the presidency, and are urging Villepin and other close allies of President Jacques Chirac to endorse his campaign.

The latest poll on Wednesday showed that Sarkozy continues neck-and-neck with the Socialist candidate Segolene Royal. Both get 50 percent of voting intentions in a survey by IPSOS for Le Point magazine.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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