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PARIS (AP) _ Socialist French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin announced his resignation Monday, a widely expected step that clears the way for newly re-elected President Jacques Chirac to name a successor.

The presidential Elysee Palace made the announcement after the two men met briefly in Chirac's office. The resignation of Jospin and his leftist Cabinet allows Chirac to name a new government that will swiftly announce plans to crack down on rising crime, a key issue during the campaign.

Conservative Chirac was re-elected in a landslide victory on Sunday, crushing far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen by taking 82 percent of the vote. Now the focus has shifted to June's crucial legislative elections, and Chirac is expected to name an interim prime minister who will help him try to rally the right to victory.

Two likely candidates for prime minister are Nicolas Sarkozy, a lawmaker and mayor of the suburb of Neuilly outside Paris, and Jean-Pierre Raffarin, a senator from the market-oriented Liberal Democracy party.

Whoever takes the post might not hold it long.

If the right fails to gain a majority of seats in the National Assembly, Chirac will be forced to appoint a leftist prime minister after the legislative election, ushering in a new period of ``cohabitation'' _ an uncomfortable power-sharing pact that would be disastrous for Chirac, stripping him of much of his power.

Chirac has already lived through five tense years of governance alongside Socialist Jospin, and he has vowed to prevent a similar situation this time around.

Jospin also ran in the presidential elections but was cut in the first round April 21 because of Le Pen's unexpected showing. Stunned, Jospin promised to retire from politics after the final round and called Le Pen's success a ``very disturbing sign for France and for our democracy.''