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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sarkozy Steps Down as Interior Minister

PARIS -- French right-wing presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy stepped down as interior minister on Monday to focus on his election campaign less than a month before voters go to the polls.

For months Sarkozy, 52, resisted pressure to leave the job in which he made his name as a law and order leader, saying there was no reason for him to quit despite criticism that he was using the post as an electoral platform.

"I will leave convinced that I have been faithful to my duty and faithful to the contract that bound me to the French people, who wanted the state's authority to be expressed with greater resolve," Sarkozy said at a handover ceremony.

French President Jacques Chirac announced last week that Sarkozy would leave the government on Monday. Francois Baroin, minister for France's overseas territories, took over as interior minister.

Chirac has given Sarkozy his backing as he is their party's designated candidate, but the two have been bitter rivals since Sarkozy backed a former Chirac ally for president in 1995.