BEIJING (Reuters) - A court in eastern China rejected an appeal by ousted senior politician Bo Xilai on Friday and upheld his life sentence on charges of bribery, corruption and abuse of power, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Bo, once a rising star in China's leadership circles who had cultivated a following through his populist, quasi-Maoist policies, was jailed for life in September after a dramatic fall from grace that shook the ruling Communist Party.

His career was stopped short last year by a murder scandal in which his wife, Gu Kailai, was convicted of poisoning a British businessman, Neil Heywood, who had been a family friend.

In a brief announcement carried on its Weibo microblog, Xinhua said that the high court in the eastern province of Shandong, where Bo was originally tried, had rejected his appeal. It gave no further details.

Bo's guilty verdict had been unlikely to be overturned as the courts are controlled by the Communist Party, which had pronounced him guilty long ago.

President Xi Jinping, who took office in March, will have wanted the Bo affair settled because the next few weeks are critical for his government.

At a closed-door party plenum next month, Xi will push for more economic reforms and he needs unstinting support from the party's elite 200-member Central Committee.

Bo, 64, who was Communist Party chief of the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing, mounted an unexpectedly fiery defense during his trial, denouncing testimony against him by his wife as the ravings of a mad woman hoping to have her own sentence reduced.

He repeatedly said that he was not guilty of any of the charges, although he admitted making some bad decisions and shaming his country by his handling of former Chongqing police chief, Wang Lijun, who first told Bo that Gu had probably murdered Heywood.

Wang, who fled to the U. S. consulate in the nearby city of Chengdu in February last year after confronting Bo with evidence that Gu was involved in the murder, was also jailed last year for covering up the crime.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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