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Sunday, March 28, 1999 Published at 17:37 GMT

World: Europe

Le Pen launches Euro campaign

Jean-Marie Le Pen: Dismissed the split of his party

French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen has launched the campaign of his party, the National Front, for the European Parliament elections in June.

Mr Le Pen told some 3,000 delegates at a conference in Le Bourget outside Paris that the Front would campaign to defend French national sovereignty and oppose the growing power of the European Union, its Brussels-based executive and the European Central Bank.

Mr Le Pen shrugged off the recent split in the party led by his younger far-right rival, Bruno Megret.

Mr Megret, Le Pen's former lieutenant, formed a new party late last year.

Cat problems

Mr Le Pen also dismissed this week's resignation from the party of the Mayor of Toulon, Jean-Marie Le Chevallier, saying it does not trouble him.

"This bothers me less than having lost my cat last night," Mr Le Pen said.

"Life is made up of losses and gains. I have not lost Toulon, we lost Le Chevallier, that is different," he said.

Mr Chevallier announced on Saturday he would become an independent mayor because Mr Le Pen had failed to support him.

"I'm a little bitter and weary of Jean-Marie Le Pen's lack of support for his regional troops," Mr Le Chevallier said.

Anti-foreigner stance

France's National Front, which is largely anti-foreigner and anti-immigrant, has consistently gained about 15% of the vote in recent national elections.

But with recent resignations and expulsions, Mr Le Pen's party is left with just nine of its original 12 MEPs, 28 of the original 44 politburo members and one mayor of a major city of the four initially elected.

Each of the two rival National Fronts are aiming to put up candidates for the European elections.

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