FRENCH SPY CLAIMS BACKFIRE

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Just 24 hours after French officials ordered five alleged American spies to leave the country, the affair has become mired in France's own presidential politics. Today, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe -- a supporter of conservative candidate Jacques Chirac -- said he was "scandalized" by the leak and ordered an investigation. Interior Ministry officials, who reportedly gave the story to the Paris daily Le Monde and ordered the Americans to leave, are catching flak. They support Premier Edouard Balladur, whose presidential campaign was already tangled in a wiretapping scandal. "It's a campaign maneuver," said Philippe Vasseur, a Chirac backer. "They were trying to create a smoke screen." In Washington, State Department officials said it was unlikely that the four accused Americans who are U.S. diplomats would depart before their posting ended.