France's Le Pen looks ahead after Israeli meet

4th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

French right-wing leader Marine Le Pen said Thursday she hoped a page had been turned on her father's incendiary remarks about Nazi gas chambers after meeting with a top Israeli envoy.

The French National Front party leader's father Jean-Marie Le Pen sparked outrage in 1987 when he described World War II Nazi death camps as a "detail of history," and later repeated the claim on multiple occasions, for which he has been convicted of racism or inciting racial hatred.

A "misunderstanding" over the comments has "lasted for years" and has been used as a way to "caricature the movement," Le Pen said after brief talks with Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor at the United Nations.

"I think this lifts an accusation... our political adversaries have used to try to push us away from power. It is legitimate for a big party like ours to have eased and normalized relations with representatives of all nations."

The French presidential candidate said it was the first time she had met with an Israeli official, and said she was ready to travel to Israel if she received a formal invitation from the Jewish state.

During their short meeting, Le Pen said the pair discussed the eurozone crisis and Arab Spring protests roiling the Middle East and North Africa.

The Israeli envoy had stopped by a closed-door lunch Le Pen had at the UN with a handful of ambassadors, but left after 20 minutes, before the luncheon began.

"We flourish on the diversity of ideas," Prosor said. "We talked about Europe, about other issues and I enjoyed the conversation very much."

By meeting with Prosor, Le Pen said the ambassador had perhaps sent a "signal... that the page has turned" on "past misunderstandings between French Jews and the National Front."

Three ambassadors to the United Nations took part: Trinidad and Tobago's Rodney Charles, Uruguay's Jose Luis Cancela and Armenia's Garen Nazarian. The number two at the Japanese mission, Kazuo Kodama, also attended.

Although Le Pen, who has 17 to 19 percent support in polls, had invited dozens of francophone ambassadors and other diplomats to the meeting, none of them showed up.

On Friday, she is due to continue her visit in Manhattan and may meet with Occupy Wall Street protesters, with whom she says she shares a similar message.

In Washington on Wednesday, she met with Republican Representatives Joe Walsh and Ron Paul, a presidential candidate, before heading to the headquarters of the IMF, which she accused of "starving the people."

Le Pen also said France's UN ambassador Gerard Araud had sent "a rather strong message" that she was not welcome.

"The French government is very upset with my presence here and is seeking to minimize the impact of my visit by any means possible," she told reporters.

© 2011 AFP

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