* Desmarest exit amid tensions with government shareholder
* State wants Ghosn to recruit a second-in-command (Adds detail, quote)
PARIS, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Senior Renault board member Thierry Desmarest has resigned from the French carmaker, sources told Reuters, days ahead of a meeting at which Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn is asking directors to back his chosen successor's appointment.
Desmarest's exit comes amid renewed tensions between Renault and its biggest shareholder, the French government, which had pressed Ghosn to recruit a second-in-command who could one day succeed him at the helm of the Renault-Nissan alliance.
Former Total boss Desmarest, 72, whose mandate runs until 2020, told Renault within the last week that he was stepping down early, people familiar with the matter said.
A spokeswoman for the French oil giant, where Desmarest remains honorary chairman, declined to comment. The company did not respond to Reuters' requests to speak to him directly.
"We do not comment on rumors and speculation," a Renault spokesman said.
Desmarest had served on Renault's board for almost a decade and chaired its strategy committee. His exit follows that of Chief Performance Officer Stefan Mueller, which cleared the way for Ghosn to propose his other deputy, Thierry Bollore, as chief operating officer and heir apparent. (Reporting by Laurence Frost, additional reporting by Michel Rose Editing by Geert De Clercq)