In a statement broadcast live on television on Tuesday, Juppe - considered a close ally of President Jacques Chirac - insisted he would fight to clear his name.

He, however, hinted he wanted to be replaced as head of Chirac's UMP party at its congress in November.

"I joined politics because I wanted to serve my country, to serve ideas, to serve my fellow citizens. And that is what I try to do… does all that deserve to be wiped out at the stroke of a pen, in general disgrace? I do not think I deserve it. I think it is too much," the former prime minister said.

Juppe, 58, also said he would retain his seat in the National Assembly and the mayorship of the southwestern city of Bordeaux pending the appeal which is due in about a year.

Conviction

Convicted last week, Juppe had received an 18-month suspended jail sentence and was also barred from public office for 10 years.

He admitted he was guilty of the charges against him – that he organised the payment of party officials out of Paris municipal funds during the time when Chirac was mayor of Paris - and said that if the appeal court reconvicted him he would leave politics for good.

"Yes I made mistakes. That is clear. But you have to remember that for 20 years all the political parties had difficulties organising their finances. Many have been convicted… so if falls on my head. That is fine. The law must apply to me as to anyone else," he said.

But he said the written ruling of the judge, that he had "abused the confidence of the people," was what made him determined to fight back. "It was a disgrace cast over my whole political life. It was terrible."