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Europe

French Finance Minister to Step Down to Challenge Chirac

French finance minister Nicolas Sarkozy is set to resign in order to run for the Presidency of the centre-right ruling UMP party, from where he will challenge President Jacques Chirac for the Presidency in 2007.

The popular Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to step down after he presents the French budget on Sept. 22 , but a spokesman for President Chirac said that he will remain the finance minister until the UMP election at the end of November. Chirac, according to Le Monde, said that he "approved of his decision and will offer his support." Significantly, he will not present a rival candidate, making Sarkozy's election as UMP head assured. However, he moved to prevent Sarkozy from holding on to his job at the finance ministry by saying that he would dismiss him if he did not resign. There had been speculation that Sarkozy - widely seen as a highly competent minister - would attempt to combine the two jobs. Sarkozy will use the post of UMP President - recently vacated by Chirac ally Alain Juppe who was convicted of bribery - to challenge for the Presidency of France in 2007. (EUobserver.com)

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