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Wednesday, 24 April, 2002, 21:37 GMT 22:37 UK
Brussels protest silences Le Pen
Demonstration in Marseilles on Wednesday
Street protests have continued in France against Le Pen
Jean-Marie Le Pen cut short a visit to the European Parliament on Wednesday when other deputies (MEPs) heckled his first speech to the chamber since his stunning success in the first round of France's presidential election.

The far-right leader - one of France's five National Front MEPs - faced jeers and placards saying "Non" (No) as he stood up to speak on the Middle East and he cancelled a scheduled news conference on the EU.

Protesters against Jean-Marie Le Pen at the Europarliament in Brussels
Le Pen faced "Stop the Nazis" slogans in Brussels

Jacques Chirac, the incumbent president who will now face Mr Le Pen in the 5 May run-off, has warned again of the threat posed to France by the far right and is standing by his refusal to debate with the National Front leader.

Wednesday saw more protests against Mr Le Pen in France and abroad, albeit on a lesser scale than in previous days.

Mr Le Pen's presence in the chamber caused the European Commissioner for External Relations, Chris Patten, to deviate from his own speech on the Middle East, describing Mr Le Pen as "one of the less agreeable aspects of European civilisation".

Click here for the election results

The French National Front leader, who has been an MEP since 1984, has vowed to take France out of the EU if he wins the presidential election.

His arrival prompted scuffles and shouts in the lobby, which was crowded with camera crews. Young demonstrators protested outside the parliament building in Brussels.

In his brief speech on the Middle East, Mr Le Pen accused Europe and France of being absent from the conflict and letting the United States take the lead.

Launch new window : Voters' voices
In pictures: French voters have their say

One of Mr Le Pen's fellow National Front MEPs, Jean-Claude Martinez, blamed "provocateurs" for making a news conference impossible in Brussels and it is due now to be held on Friday in Paris.

The BBC's Europe correspondent, Jonty Bloom, notes that other far-right and anti-EU parties at the European Parliament have distanced themselves from Mr Le Pen's policies, which have been described as "racist and fascist".

'No compromise'

Mr Chirac has restated his refusal to hold a televised debate with Mr Le Pen,

"There is nothing in common, no possible debate,. no possible compromise with the representatives of the extreme right," he said in an interview on French TV.

Jean-Marie Le Pen
Jean-Marie Le Pen
  • Born in 1928 in the Brittany town of La Trinite-sur-Mer
  • Set up the National Front in 1972
  • In 1987 he described the Holocaust as a "detail of history"
  • Wants 200,000 new prison places, the abolition of inheritance tax and a renegotiation of European treaties

      Click here for a full profile

  • Television debates have been a feature of French presidential campaigns since the 1970s, and Mr Le Pen has condemned his rival's decision as an "attack on the rules of the democracy".

    Opinion polls have shown that a majority of French people survey are in favour of a debate.

    Mr Chirac said on Wednesday that France's image abroad had already been "shaken" by Mr Le Pen's success and its values of tolerance and humanity were at stake.

    He appeared to sympathise with the street protests seen around France since election night, saying they signified "effervescence", but he urged demonstrators to avoid violence.

    There were fewer protesters out on Wednesday but student union leaders have called for a mass demonstration on Saturday.

    'Referendum on Le Pen'

    All the mainstream parties, of left and right, are now supporting Mr Chirac and he is expected to win by a wide margin.

    A Socialist cabinet minister, Laurent Fabius, explained that he was backing Mr Chirac in "an anti-Le Pen referendum".

    Lionel Jospin arrives at the hotel Matignon in Paris on Wednesday
    France's prime minister is quitting politics after the presidency escaped his grasp

    Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, who was eliminated in the first round of voting, held what was expected to be his last cabinet meeting along with President Chirac on Wednesday.

    He has announced he will resign after 5 May.

    A minister present at the meeting said it had been "charged with emotion" as Mr Jospin thanked both his own team and Mr Chirac, his former arch-rival, for the "courteous and simple manner in which he presided over the cabinet".

    Click here to return

    The BBC's Angus Roxburgh reports from Brussels
    "Mr Le Pen was interrupted by a chorus of MEPs"
    Leader of Labour MEPs Simon Murphy
    "He's a parasite on our democracy here"
    Political analyst Carole Barje
    "Le Pen said things that people wanted to hear"
    See also:

    24 Apr 02 | UK Politics
    Le Pen policies 'repellent' - Blair
    22 Apr 02 | Europe
    French election in quotes
    22 Apr 02 | Africa
    Le Pen vote alarms Africa
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