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Split threatens French opposition party

Former French prime minister Francois Fillon has threatened to form a breakaway faction in parliament as his reaction to rival Jean-Francois Cope being named as winner of a conservative UMP party internal ballot.

Journalists stand in front of the UMP headquarters as they wait for the result of an election for the political party's new leader in Paris November 19, 2012. France's UMP party members voted yesterday to select its leader between current secretary-general Jean-Francois Cope and former prime minister Francois Fillon, both who have claimed victory in a close election. REUTERS Charles Platiau (FRANCE - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS) MEDIA) // eingestellt von se

Frankreich/UMP/Vorsitz

Francois Fillon said on Tuesday that he would split away from the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party in parliament and form a parliamentary group called "UMP Rally" until another UMP leadership ballot was called.

On Monday, the UMP's appeals commission confirmed Jean-Francois Cope as party leader. Its decision came after more than a week of election result disputes and fraud accusations within the UMP.

Fillon, however, did not accept the results, prompting his call for a split within the party.

He said as soon as a new ballot was called, the splinter group would rejoin the larger UMP. It is the main opposition party in France to President Francois Hollande's Socialists.

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy is in the middle of the struggle between Fillon and Cope. Fillon was prime minister under Sarkozy, and Cope is seen as Sarkozy's right-wing ally.

Sarkozy held meetings with both men separately on Monday, and according to the AFP news agency, he backed Fillon's call for a new vote.

Cope has rejected the idea of another election.

mz/ipj (AP, dpa)