France's would-be president, Nicolas Sarkozy, says children who do not eat pork - the case for many of the country's large Jewish and Muslim minorities - should order a double portion of chips when their school canteen puts ham on the menu.

Sarkozy, trailing rival Alain Juppe in opinion polls as they campaign for conservative party backing in the presidential election six months from now, has sought to present himself as the voice of a silent majority in a formally secular country where the majority are of nonetheless of Catholic origin.

Two weeks from a primary election organized by his party, Les Republicains (The Republicans), the man who was president from 2007 to 2012 held a political meeting overnight in his conservative fiefdom of Neuilly, west of Paris.

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