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Jacques Delors, symbol of "one Europe" federalism after a decade as head of the European Union, stunned the continent's political and financial leadership by withdrawing last night from the May French presidential race -- even though polls suggest he might have won easily. The widely-admired Delors cited his age -- 69 -- and the unappealing prospect of leading retiring President Francois Mitterand's Socialist Party amid gridlock with the powerful right. Because France's political Left has no other viable candidate, the decision prompted near-universal speculation that a more isolationist France will emerge under a conservative -- either Premier Edouard Balladur or Paris Mayor Jacques Chirac, who have been campaigning against a unified Europe. (One reaction: the franc fell about 15 percent today to trade at 3.439 against the mark.) But TIME Paris bureau chief Thomas Sancton says Delors' candidacy actually forced his conservative rivals into right-wing posturing that should quickly fade with his pullout: "Paradoxically, if you remove Delors from the equation, it becomes safer for Balladur and Chirac to embrace the European idea," Sancton says.Post your opinion on theInternationalbulletin board.