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Former PM de Villepin bows out of presidential race

Former premier Dominique de Villepin said Thursday he was dropping his bid for the French presidency after failing to get enough signatures to qualify as a candidate, a move that could benefit President Nicolas Sarkozy, a fellow conservative.


REUTERS - Former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin bowed out of France's presidential race on Thursday after failing to get the required number of official signatures to register his candidacy, a move that could benefit President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Villepin, a conservative rival of Sarkozy who quit the UMP party last year to publish his own centre-right manifesto, had been credited with between 1 and 2 percent of voting intentions for the first round ballot on April 22.

De Villepin - A Portrait

But speaking on French television he said it would take a miracle for him to get the signatures of 500 official sponsors by tomorrow's deadline, without which he will not be able to take part in the contest.

"I'm still around 30 short," he told France 2 television in an interview.

He refused to say whether he would form an alliance with another candidate, adding only: "Alliances aren't in my nature."

Villepin, who was prime minister of France under former President Jacques Chirac, has a long-standing political rivalry with Sarkozy, which reached its peak in 2008 in the so-called "Clearstream" affair.

The case saw Sarkozy accuse Villepin of trying to discredit him in the run-up to his 2007 election campaign by being involved in the publication of a forged list of names linking Sarkozy to secret Luxembourg accounts.

Villepin was acquitted of all charges by an appeals court in September 2011.

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