According to sources quoted in French media, Sarkozy said Jean-François Copé and François Fillon should be disqualified from leading if they don’t agree on a fresh election by Tuesday.
Copé, the UMP’s secretary, and Fillon, the former prime minister under Sarkozy, had been involved a public battle ever since a disputed leadership vote two weeks ago declared Copé the winner by a narrow margin.
Although Nicolas Sarkozy has no official post in the UMP after his defeat in the May presidential election, he is said to be anxious to keep the UMP together amid media speculation he could launch a political comeback before the 2017 presidential elections.
Amid accusations of vote-rigging and bias, Fillon has formed a new parliamentary wing to break away from the UMP, and his supporters have been calling for a fresh election to settle the dispute.
Fillon has also said he will pursue legal action including a civil suit to have the results overturned.
However, Copé has refused calls for a new election, proposing instead holding a referendum on the matter in December or January, and insisted he would remain party leader until a new vote.
But in a sign that Copé could back down in the wake of his mentor Sarkozy’s deadline, Copé's close ally Luc Chatel on Sunday voiced support for a new election.
Chatel told the Journal du Dimanche weekly that the time had come "to hand over the issue to party members," adding that he backed Sarkozy's initiatives "one hundred percent."