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Tuesday, 23 April, 2002, 05:13 GMT 06:13 UK
Blair: France will reject extremism
French President Jacques Chirac and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair
Mr Blair will speak to Mr Chirac on Monday
Tony Blair has said he trusts the people of France to "reject extremism of any kind" following the shock success of far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen in the first round of the country's presidential election.

The prime minister is to speak to French leaders Jacques Chirac and Lionel Jospin by phone later on Monday in the wake of the poll's unexpected outcome.


The politics of Le Pen are a menace to the European model of social justice and ethnic tolerance

Robin Cook

He was "very sad" at the elimination from the contest of socialist prime minister Mr Jospin, who is now retiring from politics, describing him as "an honest and decent man", his official spokesman said.

In the most stunning election result in European politics in years, Mr Le Pen won enough votes to take on incumbent President Jacques Chirac in the run-off on 5 May.

The success of Mr Le Pen, who virtually opposes immigration and has faced numerous allegations of racism and anti-Semitism as leader of the National Front, sent shockwaves through his country.

Iain Duncan Smith
Duncan Smith described result as "worrying"

An estimated 10,000 people gathered in Paris early on Monday to protest.

Police used tear gas to control the more violent demonstrators, who threw metal barriers and smashed restaurant windows.

Mr Blair's spokesman said on Monday: "It is not for us to interfere in the French election - that is for the French people alone, but we trust the French people to reject extremism of any kind."

British parallels

Meanwhile Labour Party chairman Charles Clarke said: "It must be a matter of concern that extremists have got a candidate in the final round."

But he argued that it was unlikely the result would affect the electoral success of the British National Party in council elections in England next month.

"There are particular circumstances in each country which have to be taken into full account before we can draw comparisons of that type," said Mr Clarke at a Labour press conference in London.

Menzies Campbell, Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman
Campbell said the vote cast a shadow over Europe
However, he stressed: "We do take the threat of the BNP seriously. We think it is a highly localised threat in the case of a small number of authorities, but in the cases where it is a threat, we are taking it extremely seriously."

Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said the result was a "very worrying development".

"I am not one to dabble in French politics but I do wish Mr Chirac the very best of luck."

European leaders in Brussels would react "with shock and horror" to the outcome, said European Commissioner Neil Kinnock.

The level of support expressed for the extreme right-winger "throws a great dirty rock into the European political pool", the former British Labour Party leader said.

'Overwhelming'

Donald Anderson, Labour chairman of the Commons foreign affairs select Committee, speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, expressed shock and disappointment at the result, but insisted that Mr Chirac will win the second round on 5 May by "an overwhelming majority".

"When we come to the legislative elections on June 16, it is very possible that the French people, shocked at what they have done, will return the left and cohabitation will continue," he said.

Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrats' foreign affairs spokesman, said: "Le Pen's success casts a shadow over France and the European Union.

"If he becomes president, he would undermine the values of tolerance and respect for human rights, which lie at the heart of the union."

Later, Commons leader Robin Cook, who is president of the Party of European Socialists, said the second round of voting would leave no room for people to abstain.

"The politics of Le Pen are a menace to the European model of social justice and ethnic tolerance," said Mr Cook.

See also:

21 Apr 02 | Europe
Analysis: Le Pen's final triumph
22 Apr 02 | Europe
France stunned by Le Pen success
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