Sarkozy will resign to take up UMP leadership

15th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 14 (AFP) - French Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy - arch rival of President Jacques Chirac - has said he will resign immediately if he is elected chief of Chirac's governing party later this month, as seems likely.

PARIS, Nov 14 (AFP) - French Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy - arch rival of President Jacques Chirac - has said he will resign immediately if he is elected chief of Chirac's governing party later this month, as seems likely.

In an interview for publication Monday, Sarkozy said he would hand in his resignation to Chirac on the morning of November 29 if he was voted head of the conservative UMP (Union for a Popular Movement) on the previous day as expected.

He told the newspaper Le Figaro the president "wishes me to leave my ministry the moment I am elected."

"I will therefore submit my resignation to the President of the Republic on the morning of November 29."

UMP activists were set to choose a new chairman this week but the results will not be announced until a party congress on November 28 at Le Bourget.

Sarkozy is also expected to seek Chirac's job in the 2007 presidential election.

Evidence of strained relations resurfaced Sunday with Chirac indirectly accusing Sarkozy of trying to open up a "new and pointless debate in France on topics that enjoy consensus."

Sarkozy, who was interior minister before taking over the finance ministry early this year, has repeatedly made apparent his impatience with Chirac's brand of politics - taking up opposing positions on issues ranging from affirmative action for immigrants to relations with Germany.

He told Le Figaro that if voted party leader his aim would be to double its membership in a year from its present 120,000.

He said he also wanted to set up a tighter-knit party leadership "with men and women willing to take on full responsibility".

He said he would guarantee unity and freedom of expression within the party.

"The UMP will say what it deems necessary to say including on the subject of the pace of reform," he said. There would be no taboos or wrong ideas.

In a major broadside, Chirac and Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin earlier on Sunday rejected Sarkozy's idea of using state funds to build mosques and train Islamic religious leaders.

Chirac obliquely accused Sarkozy of trying to "open up a new and pointless debate in France on topics that enjoy consensus."

Reflecting concern about the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, Sarkozy is quoted as saying in a new book that it was "preferable for youth to have spiritual hope than to have in their heads the religion of violence, drugs or money," and arguing that the state should be allowed to help minority faiths struggling to assert themselves amid the Roman Catholic majority.

France this year strengthened separation between religion and the state by banning the wearing of prominent religious insignia such as large crosses, Jewish skullcaps or Muslim headscarves in state schools. This provoked protest from France's Muslim community.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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