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Le Pen to 'take France out of EU'

PARIS, France -- Jubilant French National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen has vowed to turn back the political clock and take the country out of the European Union if he becomes president.

Following his stunning success in the first round of voting in the French presidential elections, Le Pen said on Monday he was prepared to take France out of "the Europe of Maastricht."

The ripples from Le Pen's success are spreading across Europe with nationalists in other countries gathering strength from the result while others, including a forum of Jewish world leaders being held in Brussels were horrified.

Le Pen told reporters: "I am not an enemy of Europe. I am a partisan of a Europe of nations, a Europe of homelands, but I am a determined adversary of a supranational, federal, federalising Europe.

CNN's Robin Oakley says Le Pen's success has alarmed the rest of Europe, shocked the main parties and altered the French political landscape (April 22)

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Le Pen shocked many in France by defeating Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. CNN's Jim Bittermann reports (April 22)

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On the Scene: Robin Oakley -- 'Shock, horror, disbelief' 

Press round-up: Political 'earthquake' hits France 
In-depth: France Decides 2002 

"What I have not accepted in the Europe of Brussels is that it was said to be irreversible."

Although Le Pen, 73, is widely forecast to lose in the second round runoff to French President Jacques Chirac, his success has shaken France.

"The Earthquake," blazed Le Figaro, France's top-selling newspaper. The left-leaning daily Liberation in a single-word front-page headline above a photo of Le Pen, screamed "Non." (Press reaction - full story)

It also sent shockwaves through Europe -- which is becoming increasingly concerned about the re-emergence of the far-right -- and ended the career of third-placed Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.

Jospin, humiliated after a dull campaign that failed to capitalise on his government's economic record, announced he would quit politics and will step down as prime minister on May 6.

With more than 99 percent of the vote counted, Chirac had 19.7 percent, Le Pen 17.06 percent and Jospin 16.05 percent, according to the Interior Ministry.

Analysis of the result showed Le Pen, who once called the Holocaust a detail of history, finished first in nine of France's 22 regions and displaced the Socialists and Communists as the choice of working class voters.

Voters had been predicted to flock to candidates on the far left and right, including Arlette Laguiller of the hard-left Worker's Struggle. (Full story)

France voted only narrowly in favour of the Maastricht Treaty on European economic and monetary integration in a referendum in 1992 when Le Pen championed a "No" vote.

While in France Le Pen's poll victory brought some rioting, there was also alarm beyond its borders.

In Brussels, world Jewish leaders held emergency talks to discuss how to fight a rash of anti-Semitic violence that has swept western Europe -- especially in France and Belgium.

"We are now facing an unprecedented increase in anti-Semitism on this continent," Avi Beker, secretary-general of the World Jewish Congress, told Reuters.

"We haven't had this level of anti-Semitism since World War Two."

Israel's most powerful religious party urged French Jews to emigrate to Israel to escape anti-Semitism.

Beker added: "The (European Union) governments cannot just shrug their shoulders and say it's all part of the Middle East problem."

Elsewhere, politicians reacted with shock and dismay to Le Pen's success.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said: "It's most regrettable that the far right has become so strong."

In Spain, which currently holds the European Union presidency, Foreign Minister Josep Pique said: "I am extremely worried by certain stances which might involve a racist or xenophobic element, but I am also worried to a large extent by certain stances which run completely counter to the construction of Europe."

In London, a spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Jospin's defeat by Le Pen was "very sad."

He added: "We trust the French people to reject extremism of any kind."

Polish Social Democrat Prime Minister Leszek Miller said Le Pen's strong result posed a threat to the enlargement of the EU.

But Austria's far-right leader and former head of the Freedom Party, Joerg Haider, said Le Pen's success was a vote of no confidence in France's political leaders and showed attitudes toward immigration were shifting.

"Anyone who speaks out against excessive and uncontrolled immigration or the abuse of asylum laws in the context of centre-right politics is immediately branded an extremist," he told state broadcaster ORF.

Russian ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky told Interfax Le Pen's advance was evidence of a move to the right in many countries.

"People are tired of loose democracy, which gives birth to crime and large-scale migration," he said.

Filip Dewinter, leader of the far-right Vlaams Blok that took a third of the vote in Belgium's second city Antwerp in 2000, said: "I'm very, very pleased that Le Pen scored such a large victory. We are brothers in arms."


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