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France's far-right candidate unveils vision

By Thibault Leroux
Associated Press / November 19, 2011

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PARIS—French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen unveiled her vision for the country to hundreds of cheering supporters Saturday, advocating again for an exit from the euro and tighter border controls.

During a speech that lasted more than an hour, Le Pen hammered home the traditional promises of her Front National party: strengthening France, preserving family values, fighting immigration and rejecting globalization.

"French interest before everything, above everything," she told the crowd.

But on the economy, she was surprisingly silent, putting off until January her plan for reducing France's debts. Le Pen and the front have always advocated a more isolationist path for France -- policies that could gain traction as Europe's debt crisis continues to swallow more countries.

Greece, Portugal and Ireland have already been bailed out, and Italy's fate now hangs in the balance, with its borrowing costs approaching levels generally considered unaffordable. Fears about the future of the euro and the ability of eurozone leaders to dig the continent out of the crisis have also sent France's borrowing costs rising.

Le Pen would only repeat that France should leave the euro before it falls apart, telling BFM TV after her speech that "we have to anticipate this collapse, not suffer it."

She said she would outline a "plan for vigor" in January -- and said it would provide a sharp contrast to the austerity introduced by President Nicolas Sarkozy. The government has been forced to introduce a raft of budget cuts this year as it tries to keep its promise to balance the budget before 2016.

While Sarkozy has said France must help right the eurozone it helped create, Le Pen contends that such integration impinges on France's sovereignty.

"None of this will be possible without the authority of a strong state," she said during her speech, which lasted more than hour and was frequently interrupted by applause. "I said strong, not bloated."

Le Pen, who inherited the leadership of the Front National from her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, has said she wants to broaden appeal for her party, known for its anti-immigration, anti-Islam views.

But she reiterated calls for tighter surveillance of the borders, calling for customs posts to be placed at the frontier. Within the European Union, goods and people now cross most borders without such checks.

Le Pen also presented a raft of ideas on improving political accountability -- like limiting French presidents to one seven-year term, instead of the current two five-year terms -- and education -- like focusing on teaching French and calculus earlier.