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Balladur resigns as Jupp is tipped to become PM

The French Prime Minister, Edouard Balladur, submitted his goverment's resignation to President Franois Mitterrand at noon yesterday, marking the first stage in the transfer of power to Jacques Chirac. Flouting convention, Mr Balladur sent his letter of resignation by courier instead of presenting it in person, although he was expected to meet the President today.

From the time that Mr Balladur's resignation is accepted by Mr Mitterrand to the time that the newly elected President Chirac is sworn in and names the new prime minister - expected early next week - France will in effect lack a government. Power in the interim resides with the President.

Although Mr Balladur is of a similar political persuasion to Mr Chirac, the two Gaullists stood against each other in the presidential election, ending a close association of more than 20 years. After Mr Balladur had been eliminated in the first round, he called on his supporters to vote for Mr Chirac and re-establish the unity of the right. Once Mr Chirac had won, however, his position as Prime Minister became untenable. Mr Chirac is expected to appoint the Foreign Minister, Alain Jupp, to succeed him.

Mr Balladur has said he will remain in politics, although he has not said in what capacity. He is believed to have discounted a suggestion from Mr Chirac that he might stand in next month's municipal elections, to succeed Mr Chirac as Mayor of Paris.

Had it not been for his electoral defeat, Mr Balladur would be seen now as a successful prime minister who presided over the beginning of an economic recovery, kept the franc and the economy strong and started to tackle an unemployment level above 12 per cent.

He became Prime Minister in March 1993, after the right won parliamentary elections. He was the seventh prime minister to serve under Mr Mitterrand and the second to head a "cohabitation" government. The first was Mr Chirac.

As Mr Chirac continued to consult with advisers and potential ministers, the national bureau of the Socialist Party met just across the Seine, to consider strategy for the municipal elections and the role of its presidential candidate, Lionel Jospin. Seven associates, including Jacques Delors, published a letter in Le Monde saying "a new left" had been born and thanking Mr Jospin for his campaign.