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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 : 2011-03-22

Sarkozy faces the National Front

In today's French papers - Sarkozy falls out with Prime Minister François Fillon over how to win votes back from the National Front, France and the US can't agree on who should be in charge of the intervention in Libya, and fears are spreading over whether Japanese nuclear radiation could reach France.

Aujourd’hui en France headlines this morning on division within Sarkozy’s government on how to face the right-wing threat – the paper points out it seems to be FN leader Marine Le Pen who’s driving governmentpolicy, with President Sarkozy recently announcing a national debate on the role of Islam in France which seems to play right into Le Pen’s hands – the paper’s cartoon has Sarkozy asking his ministers if they should perhaps organize a debate about the role of the UMP instead.

The FN can look forward to at least a dozen local councillors being elected at the second round this weekend, the paper says – that’s at a level where they have none at the moment.

But the FN’s success seems to have taken some of its candidates by surprise themselves – the party registered candidates in every district, even those thought to be completely unwinnable – and Le Parisien interviews one of those candidates – a 93-year-old, in a nursing home, who apparently didn’t even know his name was on the ballot paper.

The paper points out there’s a division in the government between Prime Minister François Fillon, who’s told supporters to vote Socialist to keep the National Front out – and President Sarkozy who say they should vote for neither – that also leads today’s Liberation – it’s an important debate as the FN will be facing off against the Socialists in this weekend’s second round in over two hundred districts where the UMP has already been knocked out of the contests.

France’s Socialists famously held their noses and voted for Jacques Chirac in 2002 when Marine’s father Jean-Marie Le Pen got to the second round of the presidential election. Should Sarkozy supporters do the same? The paper thinks so.

Their editorial says the right should take responsibility for demonising Muslims and allowing Le Pen to make her electoral breakthrough.

Same story at France Soir - ‘Fillon opposes Sarkozy over National Front ’ – they say Sarkozy keeps moving further to the right, at the risk of playing straight into Marine Le Pen’s hands and splitting his own party – they say the party has got into a lose-lose situation with the Socialists and the FN picking off their voters from both sides.

Communist paper l’Humanité says it’s the left that must face up to its responsibilities now and get the vote out so that the National Front doesn’t pick up dozens of seats across the country – while Catholic paper La Croix says the result is a national shame. It points out turnout was low and voters seem to be rejecting traditional parties across the political spectrum – so both the left and right need to find a way to get those voters back – because the National Front seems to be getting through to working class voters where other parties can’t.

Libya of course isn’t off the French front pages either – Le Figaro leads on divisions within the coalition of the willing – saying Italy has threatened to close its air bases to coalition planes unless the operation comes under NATO control.

Les Echos on the other hand has the Japanese nuclear disaster on the front page again today – and the paper raises the fear radioactive fallout could reach as far as France.

That’s worrying the regional press as well – local paper Courrier Picard has ‘The radioactive cloud is coming our way’ on the front page – of course it’s very unlikely any nuclear fallout could reach France and the paper does point that out – but it doesn’t stop them recommending readers stock up on iodine and avoid eating anything grown in Japan.

And finally Franck Ribéry’s return to the French national team with his tail between his legs makes all the papers today – he’s apologized for going on strike during last year’s World Cup- Le Parisien says it’s either touching or ridiculous – or both at once – but the sports writers can’t quite decide which.

By Elena CASAS

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