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Chirac ‘blocked’ Le Pen's Mandela visit

Charlotte Boitiaux

Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right National Front, claimed on Wednesday that her father Jean-Marie (pictured) tried to visit Nelson Mandela in 2002, but the meeting was stopped after pressure from then-French president Jacques Chirac.


French far-right leader Marine Le Pen said Wednesday that her father Jean-Marie, the founder of her National Front (FN) party, was prevented from meeting Nelson Mandela in 2002 after pressure from then-French president Jacques Chirac.

The meeting, she told public broadcaster France Inter, was supposed to have taken place during the controversial 2002 presidential campaign, in which Jean-Marie Le Pen shocked France by coming second in the first round of the vote before going head-to-head with Chirac.

Marine Le Pen described the ailing former South African president as “a man of peace” at a time when “the risks were enormous”.

She said the end of apartheid, a South African racial segregation policy in that lasted officially from 1948 to 1991, was “good news for the whole world”.

“Apartheid was obviously deeply objectionable, unjust and wrong,” she said.

Le Pen, whose party campaigns for strict limits to be put on non-European immigration, described Nelson Mandela, the former 94-year-old South African president now on life support in hospital, as “a hugely important figure for South Africa”.

“My only regret is that during the 2002 presidential campaign, my father Jean-Marie [then FN leader] was due to meet with Mandela,” she said. “But Jacques Chirac used all the pressure he could muster to prevent this from happening.”

'Place Nelson Mandela' renamed

She insisted that her father, who once described the Holocaust as “a detail” of the Second World War, “had always opposed apartheid” and that “Nelson Mandela was keen to meet him.”

“His trip to South Africa had been organised, obviously with Mandela’s approval, but Chirac intervened to sink it,” she said.

Le Pen’s position, however, seemed to come unstuck when France Inter journalist Patrick Cohen challenged her on a 1997 decision by FN mayor Catherine Mégret, at Vitrolles in southern France, to change the name of one of the town’s squares from “Place Nelson Mandela” to “Place de Provence”.

She replied: “In my party there is a mixture of opinions, which is more than can be said for France Inter, where opinion is uniform and where the output is predominantly Bolshevik.

“Outside of the station you’re known as ‘Radio Bolcho’, and it’s not just the FN that thinks so.”

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