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Former French PM Juppe to Remain in Politics - 2004-02-03


Former French Prime Minister Alain Juppe said he would remain in politics as he appealed an 18 month, suspended prison sentence for his role in an illegal jobs scandal. Juppe, the head of France's ruling Union for a Popular Movement party (UMP), has changed his mind about retiring from politics.

In a widely awaited announcement Tuesday night, Juppe said he would keep his political posts which include being mayor of the French city of Bordeaux, deputy in France's National Assembly and head of the UMP party of French President Jacques Chirac.

During an interview on French television, Juppe said retiring from politics would have been the quote, "easier route". But he said after reflection and an outpouring of support, including from Mr. Chirac, he would remain unless an appeals court finds him guilty. He added however, he will step down as party's boss after UMP election next October.

Juppe's sentence Friday roiled France's center-right political establishment, just two months before key regional elections. Besides being one of France's most powerful politicians, Juppe is widely considered Mr. Chirac's favored heir, should the president decide not to run for re-election in 2007.

His sentence, in a case involving fake jobs at Paris city hall more than a decade ago, also casts a shadow on President Chirac. Mr. Chirac, who has been dogged by allegations of political wrongdoing for years. Mr. Chirac was mayor of Paris at the time.

Meanwhile, the French government has launched investigations into claims the magistrates who convicted Juppe were subjected to threats and pressures. Juppe said he hoped investigations would uncover the truth behind the alleged harassment, which may have included tampering with judicial computers and phones. One of the judges apparently received a threatening letter, suggesting Juppe must be forced out of politics.

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