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French right leader rejects mediation call by ‘sore loser’

PARIS: Jean-Francois Cope, the head of France’s right-wing UMP opposition, said Thursday an ex-prime minister was a “sore loser” for contesting the results of a leadership vote and rejected calls for mediation.
Cope defeated former prime minister Francois Fillon by 98 ballots in Sunday’s leadership vote but Fillon has thrown the party into turmoil by contesting the results, amid accusations of voter fraud.
Fillon has called on party heavyweight and ex-prime minister Alain Juppe to take over as interim leader and mediate the crisis, but Cope rejected the idea.
“I don’t see very well what would be the object of mediation,” he told Europe 1 radio.
“I don’t want it because it doesn’t make any sense,” he said, describing Fillon as “a sore loser who wants to give moral lessons without ever applying them himself.”
Juppe has said he needs to think about the request that he become interim leader, but sources close to Fillon have said he is ready to take the role.
Fillon has said that Sunday’s vote count did not include ballots cast in some of France’s overseas territories that would have handed him victory.
Cope, the UMP’s secretary general since 2010, has rejected any talk of overturning the results and warned that his camp was ready to raise concerns about alleged voter fraud in Fillon’s favor.
The leadership crisis has dented the image of ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP — still reeling from its loss of the presidency and parliament this year — and is raising the spectre of a split on the right that would benefit the ruling Socialists.