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IN THE PRESS

An overview of the stories making the French and international newspaper headlines. From Monday to Friday live at 7.20 am and 9.20 am Paris time.

Latest update : 2010-12-13

Marine Le Pen controversy over "Muslim occupation"

There’s 18 months to go before the 2012 presidential race but the campaign is already hotting up. Attention today centres on the right of the political spectrum because of comments by Marine Le Pen comparing Muslims praying outside mosques to Nazi occupation during the Second World War. That’s the focus in this review of the French papers: MONDAY, 13TH DECEMBER, 2010.

The left-wing paper Libération has a grotesque portrait of Marine Le Pen, the daughter of the far right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen. It shows her head stuck to her father’s – as if they are Siamese twins. Marine Le Pen is campaigning to take over from her father as number one of the “Front National” - the National Front - in January. She has caused outrage for her statement comparing Muslims praying in the streets outside overcrowded mosques in France to the Nazi occupation of the country during the Second World War. The paper’s editorial by Laurent Joffrin says the “Front National” has changed – it is more dangerous than before. It says that while Marine Le Pen in the past sought to distance herself from her father’s brand of extremism she is now aligning herself with him and other nationalist parties in Europe.

The hard left paper L’Humanité says her statement is poison, grabbing headlines with one sentence associating Muslims and the Nazi occupation. The paper argues many commentators were assuming she would be an “enlightened monarch” compared to her father but that’s not the case with this statement. It says the French press will bear a responsibility if it lets her provocative remark become a theme for political debate.

The main tabloid here - France Soir - says Marine Le Pen could be a nightmare for Nicolas Sarkozy’s ruling UMP. Will she be more popular than her father? the paper asks.

Le Figaro says Marine Le Pen is addressing the core National Front electorate with her statement. It cites a recent survey giving her 17 per cent support. And reminds everyone that Jean-Marie Le Pen’s influence on her is huge. He talked about politics at breakfast, lunch and dinner when she was a child. The Le Pen dining room table was the home of French far-right.

In other news, Le Monde looks at insights provided by WikiLeaks cables. It is one of the handful of papers worldwide that has access to the more than 250,000 leaked diplomatic cables. The paper reports that “Turkmenistan is a paradise for the French construction firm Bouygues”. It says messages by the embassy there suggest the company has “a privileged status”. One US embassy cable wonders why there are so many buildings being built when many are empty. The paper quotes the leaked embassy cable as saying that this status is linked to “gifts”, pointing to the possibility of corruption.

By Nicholas RUSHWORTH

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