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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 February, 2004, 20:21 GMT
Convicted Juppe refuses to quit
Alain Juppe applauded by UMP MPs on Tuesday
Juppe has the support of president and party
Former French Prime Minister Alain Juppe, who was convicted last week on corruption charges, has announced he will stay in politics.

In a statement carried live on the TV news, he said he would remain leader of President Jacques Chirac's UMP party pending an appeal.

Mr Chirac has given his backing to Juppe, who is also Bordeaux mayor and an MP.

Juppe received an 18-month suspended prison sentence, and was also barred from public office from 10 years.

I am appealing, and since the appeal suspends the sentence, I will continue in my functions
Alain Juppe
The charges related to a jobs scam at Paris City Hall while Mr Chirac was mayor.

Seven staff working for their political party, then the RPR, were put on the city hall payroll.

But Juppe said that while he had made mistakes, he had been "stunned" by the verdict.

"I don't believe I deserve this," he said.

'Encouraged'

He added that the ban on his holding office would not come into effect unless he lost the appeal.

"If this decision confirms my ineligibility, I will turn the page forever," he said.

"I am appealing, and since the appeal suspends the sentence, I will continue in my functions."

He said he was encouraged by support he had received from wellwishers.

"There are so many people around me who said 'Stick to it; assume your responsibilities'," he said.

"It was true in Bordeaux, it is true [in Paris], it is true at the UMP. And when you have the feeling you are doing the right thing it gives you strength."

'Exceptional honesty'

Juppe, 58, is seen as Mr Chirac's favoured choice to succeed him as president.

Since the verdict, Mr Chirac has hailed him as a "political figure of exceptional quality, competence, humanity and honesty", and dined with him at the Elysee Palace.

Some commentators have said that, despite the show of support from Mr Chirac and other UMP allies, Juppe's credibility has been gravely damaged.

A separate row has deepened about an alleged dirty tricks row involving the judges who tried Juppe.

The chief magistrate, Catherine Pierce, alleged that telephones had been bugged and computers hacked into.

Three separate inquiries are to be held into the claims - one ordered by Mr Chirac, another initiated by the French parliament, and the third by judicial authorities.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Isobel Laing
"Juppe illegally placed party workers on the city's payroll"



SEE ALSO:
Chirac refuses court summons
28 Mar 01  |  Europe
Profile: Alain Juppe
30 Jan 04  |  Europe
Profile: Jacques Chirac
17 Jun 02  |  Europe
Timeline: France
20 Jan 04  |  Country profiles



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