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Prime minister denies rift with President Sarkozy

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2010-03-10

Media reports say French President Nicolas Sarkozy recently locked horns with his popular PM François Fillon, reports Fillon denies. But as Sarkozy’s ratings plummet, the reports could affect the ruling party’s chances in the upcoming regional poll.

French Prime Minister François Fillon on Tuesday night denied any tension with President Nicolas Sarkozy, after a government source leaked a rumour to French media that their relationship was undergoing a new phase of mutual “irritation”.

“The truth is that the duo the president of the Republic and I have formed for almost three years is one that surprises, and I would almost say bothers, people”, Fillon said in an interview on TV channel France 2’s nightly news bulletin.

Fillon said he was on “stable” terms with Sarkozy, and noted that they had “succeeded in building a relationship of trust”.

News of recent tension between the president and his prime minister surfaced in the French press after the two reportedly butted heads at a cabinet meeting last Wednesday.

The subject of their tiff – confirmed by a government source who spoke to Reuters – was said to be Fillon’s proposal to further reduce government regulation of France’s postal services. Sarkozy is reluctant to introduce a law that would upset French unions, who have voiced concern about privatisation of France’s public institutions.

According to weekly satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné, Fillon warned against trepidation, or “trembling hands”, regarding such a law – a remark that prompted Sarkozy, who campaigned for president on a promise of widespread reform, to retort that “trembling hands” were hardly characteristic of his leadership.

Fillon has been an increasingly high-profile member of Sarkozy’s cabinet, and his approval ratings are considerably higher than those of the president. According to the government source who leaked the latest spat between the two, a recent magazine cover portraying Fillon as a potential presidential candidate irritated Sarkozy. Still, the source said, the French president has no immediate plans to replace his prime minister.

Date created : 2010-03-10


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