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Royal shuns new French Socialist leadership team

Segolene Royal, ex-presidential candidate, takes her seat as she arrives at a news conference after the announcement in Paris by France's Socialist Party national council which declared rival Martine Aubry the new leader of the opposition party November 25, 2008. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

PARIS (Reuters) - Maverick French Socialist Segolene Royal and her allies have refused to join the leadership team of newly elected party chief Martine Aubry, a supporter said on Friday, a further sign of deep divisions in France’s opposition.

The move raises the prospect of a protracted split between Royal, who shot to prominence last year in a failed presidential election campaign against Nicolas Sarkozy, and Aubry, the architect of France’s 35-hour work week.

Aubry beat Royal last month by a razor-thin margin in a battle for leadership of the Socialist party. Royal at first disputed the result but conceded defeat after an internal party review confirmed she had lost.

Royal and her supporters see themselves as the modernising wing of the party and describe Aubry as more traditional.

“To us, the conditions for renovation and unity do not seem to be there,” Royal’s ally, Vincent Peillon, said on Friday.

Royal’s aides say she will not attend a Socialist party meeting on Saturday at which Aubry will officially unveil her leadership team.

The Socialists have been bogged down by acrimonious infighting for months, allowing Sarkozy to pursue his ambitious reform programme almost unopposed.

Reporting by Laure Bretton, writing by Brian Rohan; editing by Tim Pearce