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PARIS (Reuters) - The verdict in a trial pitting former French prime minister Dominique de Villepin against President Nicolas Sarkozy is due on January 28, the court said on Friday.
Villepin, an aristocratic ex-diplomat and a bitter rival to Sarkozy when they were ministers in the government of former president Jacques Chirac, is accused of taking part in a failed plot to destroy Sarkozy's bid for power in 2007. The trial came to a close on Friday after weeks of courtroom drama that have badly tarnished France's political elite.
Prosecutors have tried to show Villepin arranged for faked documents apparently implicating Sarkozy and dozens of others from the business and political elite to be sent to a judge investigating kickbacks on an arms deal dating from the 1990s.
They have asked for an 18-month suspended jail sentence and a fine of 45,000 euros ($67,370) for him and jail terms for the two men accused of being behind the alleged manoeuvre.
Villepin has rejected the charge and says he is himself the victim of the president's vindictiveness.
On Friday he appeared to offer an olive branch to Sarkozy.
"I keep my hand extended to Nicolas Sarkozy. I have no resentment inside me and I want to serve the French in the place I deserve," he added. The political stakes are high for both men.
A guilty verdict would almost certainly kill off any lingering political ambitions Villepin may have but, if he is cleared, it would be a slap in the face to Sarkozy and could provide a focus for rumbling discontent in his own camp.
The details of the affair, centred on a falsified list of "secret accounts" purportedly held at Luxembourg financial institution Clearstream and supposedly linked to bribery and corruption, are complex and much disputed.
(Reporting by Thierry Leveque; writing by Anna Willard; editing by Myra MacDonald)

Reuters