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FILE PHOTO - Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva attends a rally at the national congress of garbage collectors in Brasilia, Brazil December 13, 2017. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

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BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil's leftist Workers Party (PT) approved a resolution on Saturday formally supporting the candidacy of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, as the nation's left continues to rally around the leader despite a corruption conviction.

"We arrive in 2018, an election year, with the candidacy of Lula consolidated in such a way that it doesn't belong to the PT; it belongs to the Brazilian people," read the resolution, drafted by the party's national committee after a two-day meeting in Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city.

"We must defend the candidacy against systemic attacks from coup mongers, that are going to use all means to stop the people from expressing their will in the elections."

Lula, a former union leader who ran Brazil from 2003 to 2011, was convicted in July of accepting 3.7 million reais (840,903.97 pounds) in bribes from an engineering firm in exchange for public works contracts. If an appeals court fails to overturn the conviction on Jan. 24, he will be barred from running for elections scheduled for October 2018.

Even after the conviction, Lula remains beloved by much of Brazil's working class for bringing millions out of poverty through generous social welfare programs. A Datafolha poll released on Dec. 2 showed Lula getting at least 34 percent of votes if a presidential election were held today, double the support for his nearest rival.

"If they dare find Lula guilty, it will prove the political nature of the entire process," the PT resolution read.

(Reporting by Maria Carolina Marcello; Writing by Gram Slattery; Editing by Mary Milliken)

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