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New Sarkozy hint on 2017 return

Ex-president sparks new rumours as he visits Downing Street just days before current UMP leader

FORMER president Nicolas Sarkozy has said again that he is ready to return to front-line politics as he spoke at a conference hosted by American bank Goldman Sachs.

Commentators said he had revealed he could return if needed while speaking after the event – and just before setting off to Downing Street to meet UK prime minister David Cameron.

A Downing Street spokesman said that the private visit to Cameron was because "they worked very closely together during Mr Sarkozy's time in office” and had “established a very strong working relationship”.

However, coming just two days before UMP party president Jean-François Copé travels to London to meet Cameron and foreign minister William Hague, Sarkozy’s visit provoked claims that he was cutting the grass from under the feet of his possible successor.

Copé and Sarkozy’s prime minister François Fillon have only recently called a truce on their battle to lead the party in the 2017 and the former president’s moves will play to many supporters in the party who feel he would manage the country’s economic crisis better than President Hollande.

• Former Sarkozy minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet was named the UMP’s preferred candidate in the forthcoming elections to be mayor of Paris. She won a preliminary face-off with three other candidates after a weekend vote.

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