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Royal Moves to Win French Centrist Voters


French presidential hopeful Segolene Royal says she and defeated centrist candidate Francois Bayrou will hold a television debate as she seeks centrist backing ahead of next month's run-off election.

Royal, a Socialist who placed second with close to 26 percent of the vote in Sunday's first round of the elections, Thursday said the debate will take place Saturday. Centrist support - which is estimated at close to seven million voters - is crucial as Royal and her rival, center-right candidate Nicholas Sarkozy, seek victory in the May 6 run-off. Sarkozy won 31 percent of the vote in Sunday's first-round.

Bayrou has refused to endorse either of the two front-runners. He accused Royal of standing for an all-powerful state and former Interior Minister Sarkozy of fomenting social divisions.

Royal pledged to prove Bayrou wrong in the debate. Sarkozy said he will not seek an alliance with the centrist politician.

Bayrou told a Paris news conference he believes both Sarkozy and Royal have flawed policies that are likely to worsen the country's problems. He won 18 percent of the votes Sunday.

He also announced plans for creation of a new centrist group, the Democratic Party, that could contest parliamentary elections in June.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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