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Sarkozy outlines Right-wing plans

President proposes referendum on proposal to force jobless to retrain and take the first job or lose benefits

PRESIDENT Sarkozy has outlined the foundations of his forthcoming campaign, saying he would be defending three core values: work, responsibility and authority.

Although not yet a candidate - radio station RTL said it had been told he would make an announcement on Wednesday in Marseille - Sarkozy said the "day is approaching" and outlined a programme of Right-wing policies including plans to force the jobless to retrain and take a first job.

He said he planned two referendums so he could hear "directly" from the people their opinions on unemployment benefits and planned reforms on immigration.

In an interview with Figaro Magazine he said he wanted to change dole money from being a benefit to being a payment for putting in an effort to find work - and if they did not do so the money would stop.

"It needs a profound change in organisation, a form of revolution. I propose to create a new system in which benefits will not be an allowance that one gets passively, but the payment that the public employment service pays each jobseeker in return for the training that they have been following."

After some months on unemployment benefit jobseekers without serious hopes of finding a new job in their trade would be obliged to opt for retraining and, once trained, would have to accept the first job offer in that new trade.

Unemployment in France is at a 12-year high of nearly 10%.

On immigration, Sarkozy said that he did not favour an amnesty for foreigners who were living illegally in France as it would just create a rush of fresh demand. He said there should be a toughening up of the conditions for foreigners to live and work in the country with a reform on asylum-seekers' benefits.

The soon-to-be candidate said he was "not favourable" to same-sex marriage adding that "in these troubled times where our society needs its benchmarks I do not think we should tarnish the image of the vital social institution that is marriage".

Socialist challenger François Hollande said the next "referendum" was on April 22 when voters would get a chance to tell Sarkozy "directly" what they thought.

* Sarkozy's pre-election campaign has taken a blow with news that his former employment minister, Eric Woerth, is under criminal investigation for allegedly using illegal finances from L'Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt to fund the president's 2007 election effort - and then securing the Legion d'Honneur for her financial adviser.

Photo: Moritz Hager

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