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France

French conservative party confirms Cope as leader

The appeals commission for France's conservative Union for a Popular Movement party has confirmed Jean-Francois Cope as its leader. The decision comes after over a week of election result disputes and fraud accusations.

The commission issued its ruling on Monday, saying Cope (pictured above) had beaten rival Francois Fillon by 952 votes in the November 18 election, not the 98-vote margin he was given in results announced last week.

"The committee has confirmed my election," said Cope after the result was announced. "It has even recorded a bigger margin in my favour. The result is there. Everybody must now respect it."

Voting dispute

Cope, the more right-wing of the two, said the change in margin was due to the commission's decision to omit results from two polling stations where his camp had alleged fraud by Fillon supporters.

Fillon, France's prime minister under former President Nicolas Sarkozy, had contested the result, saying votes from overseas territories had been overlooked. The commission admitted that had the 1,304 votes been taken into account, Fillon "probably" would have won.

Party founder Alain Juppe attempted to mediate the dispute, but was unsuccessful. Fillon said Monday he would launch legal action to "establish the truth of the results."

According to a Fillon spokesman, Jerome Chartier, the results were "not legitimate" in his eyes.

Sarkozy mediates

Juppe turned to Sarkozy to mediate after his efforts failed. "It seems clear that [Sarkozy] is the only person today with enough authority to propose a solution where I cannot see one," he told RTL radio. "It's in his hands."

Sarkozy spoke with both men individually Monday, but did not issue a statement.

Amid fears that the rift between Cope and Fillon could cause a party split, thousands of people have signed an online petition calling for a new election entitled "I want to vote again."

dr/pfd  (dpa, Reuters)