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French opposition rivals agree to party leader poll

PARIS -- The rivals in a bitter leadership row that split France's former ruling party, the rightwing UMP of Nicolas Sarkozy, agreed Monday to a new internal election after a contested first vote last month.

Jean-Francois Cope, the election's disputed victor, and his rival Francois Fillon, Sarkozy's former prime minister, said in a statement they had agreed to hold a new vote by October next year for the leadership of the Union for a Popular Movement.

“A new election for the presidency of the UMP will take place before the resumption of the regular parliamentary session of October 2013 at the latest,” they said.

A first round of voting could be held on Sept. 15, but close aides to Fillon have said the former prime minister may not run in next year's party election.

The deal aims to put an end to monthlong infighting that has threatened to bring about the collapse of the UMP, the political heir to the movement founded by Charles de Gaulle after World War II.

In November, Fillon created his own parliament group, dubbed the Rally for the UMP, depriving the UMP of 68 of its 194 deputies.

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