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French right returns from edge of party disintegration

PARIS -- France's main opposition party, the UMP, appeared Friday to have pulled back from the brink of disintegration over a bitterly contested leadership election.

Both Jean-Francois Cope, the right-winger who was declared the winner of Sunday's knife-edge vote, and his centrist rival Francois Fillon have agreed to mediation intended to establish who actually won and whether mutual allegations of ballot rigging had any foundation.

Party heavyweight Alain Juppe, a former premier and foreign minister, has been handed what promises to be an extremely delicate job with the two camps still squabbling over the exact terms of his mandate.

“It is not the presidency of the UMP that is at stake, it the very existence of the party,” Juppe warned in a tweet after agreeing to take on the role, review how the election was run and report back in 15 days.

Despite that deal, the fratricidal sniping continued, suggesting any settlement proposed by Juppe may prove short-lived.

“A political party is not a mafia,” Fillon said Friday. “You can't just bury scandals, refuse to tell the truth.”

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