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22:07, 26 June 2017 Monday
Update: 11:25, 09 April 2011 Saturday

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Far right would pull France out of euro if wins vote
Far right would pull France out of euro if wins vote

National Front would pull the country out of the euro within six months if it wins a general election next year and impose heavy levies on imports to boost French industry, its leader said on Friday.

France's far-right National Front would pull the country out of the euro within six months if it wins a general election next year and impose heavy levies on imports to boost French industry, its leader said on Friday.

Marine Le Pen, a telegenic former lawyer who replaced her father Jean-Marie Le Pen as party chief this year, launched her economic policy as some polls show she could beat President Nicolas Sarkozy in the first round of the April 2012 vote.

The party's policy calls for restoring the French franc at parity with the euro, boosting national industry by setting up border tariffs, and reducing France's debt to 25 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025.

This would partly be achieved through savings of 40 billion euro ($57.6 billion) she believes she can glean from tighter controls on immigration. "The eurozone is the most absurd economic area in the world," Le Pen told journalists at a floating restaurant near Paris, opening a tense three-hour briefing that was frequently interrupted by shouting and tirades by journalists.

"The results of this experiment have been catastrophic for the French people ... If you want to see where this is going, just look at the examples of Greece and Ireland."

The anti-immigrant party's economic proposals have often been ridiculed as naive by the French press.

But Le Pen's poll ratings exceed those of her father ahead of the 2002 election, when the party knocked out mainstream Socialist candidate and former prime minister Lionel Jospin in the first round of voting.

She is now keen to give the National Front a more electable new image, and has enlisted a team of economic advisors from academia, the public sector and private financial institutions.

Many have chosen to remain anonymous. Le Pen refused to identify the man who presented her economic programme at the Paris press conference, saying to do so could cost him his job due to "intellectual terrorism".

"Economic patriotism"

She dismissed questions about the danger of withdrawing unilaterally from the euro, and said if currency markets rejected the franc, France would set up Iceland-style capital controls to stop investors pulling their cash out of French banks and dumping assets.

"Our scenario would not lead to hyperinflation," she said, rising from her chair.

"You cannot just ignore all the economic studies which clearly deny the fact that a withdrawal from the eurozone would bring about uncontrolled inflation."

Tracfin, a public body with 80 employees, would enforce the controls, she said.

To reduce national debt -- now around 80 percent of GDP and largely owned by foreign investors -- the party would make the Bank of France buy about 25 percent of the total.

Households and private banks like BNP Paribas would be made to shoulder much of the remaining debt.

As part of her programme of "economic patriotism", Le Pen would nationalise energy firm GDF-Suez and other "strategic assets", impose heavy levies on imports of basic goods like textiles and give state aid to fledgling companies.

Asked if she was concerned that such actions might bring sanctions from the World Trade Organisation, Le Pen said:

"I think France is a great power and that the consequences of such action would not be quite as terrible as you think."

Despite the anti-euro rhetoric, Le Pen did not say France would withdraw from the European Union -- even it dumps its currency.

"There is no chaos, no apocalypse to fear," she said. "We will remain in a spirit of cooperation with our European partners."


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Cyprus president seeks peace deal in Switzerland
Cyprus president seeks peace deal in Switzerland

Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades said Monday he hopes to clinch a reunification deal laying out a new security blueprint for the divided island during a crunch summit in Switzerland this week. Anastasiades will attend United Nations-backed talks at the Alpine Crans-Montana ski resort Wednesday with "complete determination and goodwill... to achieve a desired solution", he said in a statement. He said he hopes to "abolish the anachronistic system of guarantees and intervention rights", with a deal providing for the withdrawal of the Turkish army. The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece. Turkey maintains around 35,000 troops in northern Cyprus. The so-called guarantor powers of Turkey, Britain and Greece retain the right to intervene militarily on the island. Greek and Turkish Cypriots are at odds over a new security blueprint, but their leaders are under pressure to reach an elusive peace deal. "I am going to Switzerland to participate in the Cyprus conference, with the sole aim and intent of solving the Cyprus problem," Anastasiades said. Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci is also set to attend the summit, which is expected to last at least 10 days. Greece, Turkey and Britain will send envoys along with an observer from the European Union. UN-led talks on the island hit a wall in late May after the sides failed to agree terms to advance toward a final summit. Unlocking the security question would allow Anastasiades and Akinci to make unprecedented concessions on core issues. But they have major differences on what a new security blueprint should look like. Anastasiades's internationally recognised government, backed by Athens, seeks an agreement to abolish intervention rights, with Turkish troops withdrawing from the island on a specific timeline. Turkish Cypriots and Ankara argue for some form of intervention rights and a reduced number of troops remaining in the north. Turkish Cypriots want the conference to focus on broader issues of power-sharing, property rights and territory for the creation of a new federation. Much of the progress to date has been based on strong personal rapport between Anastasiades and Akinci, leader of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. But that goodwill has appeared frayed in the build-up to their meeting in Switzerland. The Greek Cypriot presidential election next February has also complicated the landscape, as has the government's search for offshore oil and gas, which Ankara argues should be suspended until the negotiations have reached an outcome.