French presidential candidate Le Pen to visit Lebanon
PARIS - French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen will visit Lebanon next week for talks with leaders of Paris's former mandate territory, a Lebanese government source said Wednesday.
"Madame Le Pen will be in Beirut on the 19th and 20th, and will meet (President Michel) Aoun and (Prime Minister Saad) Hariri on Monday," the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The latest polls for April's presidential vote show Le Pen, who heads the far-right National Front (FN) party, leading with 27 percent in the first round, but she is not expected to triumph in a run off.
At her campaign launch earlier this month, Le Pen vowed to put France first and to fight "terrorism", and she has called for dialogue with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Aoun, who was elected in October, had allied himself with powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah, which is fighting on behalf Assad's government in Syria.
Hariri on the other hand is fiercely opposed to the Assad regime, which he accuses of having assassinated his father, former prime minister Rafiq, in 2005.
Le Pen in a magazine interview last month said Syrians were "waiting for... Assad to win this war against Islamist fundamentalists."
Rival presidential hopeful and former economy minister Emmanuel Macron visited Beirut on January 24, where he met both Aoun and Hariri.
While he did not call for an alliance with Assad, 39-year-old centrist Macron advocated for a "balanced policy" towards the regime and the myriad rebels fighting it.
Right-wing candidate Francois Fillon, dogged by revelations his wife Penelope was paid for years for a suspected fake job as a parliamentary aide, cancelled a visit early this month to Lebanon and Iraq.
Paris had mandate power over Lebanon and neighbouring Syria during the first half of last century.