France's Le Pen refuses headscarf to meet Lebanon's mufti

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen leads the polls for the first round of voting but falls behind Macron in the second

The grand mufti's office responded with a statement expressing surprise and disappointment, arguing that Le Pen's team were informed of the headscarf requirement in advance - described as a "well known rule" of their establishment by French newspaper Le Figaro.

He added: "I want banks, talents, researchers, academics and so on".

Mr Macron accused his main rival Marine Le Pen of the National Front of trying to "push France into the 19th century" and said her plan to take the country out of the European Union would "kill" the economy and harm middle-class interests.

Rival presidential hopeful and former French economy minister Emmanuel Macron visited Beirut on January 24, where he met both Aoun and Hariri.

Republican candidate Francois Fillon is back on track to qualify for the run-off in France's presidential race, a poll showed Tuesday, as a sweetened program of reforms and intensive campaigning on social media and across the country pay dividends. He has never run for election, and is not supported by any party structure.


Le Pen was on a three-day visit to Lebanon to bolster her credentials as a presidential candidate when she walked out of a meeting with one of the country's foremost religious leaders before it started. "If [you don't like it] never mind", she said.

"We have also discussed the war on terror and come to the conclusion that Paris and Beirut need to cooperate to combat radical Islam", Marine Le Pen added.

Most polls have given either man a second-round win over Le Pen by around 20 percentage points, though the gap has narrowed in recent days. Refusing to don a headscarf might be seen as a small gesture, but still a meaningful one for her base as well as those who share her concerns about an influx of foreign and potentially risky influences.

After arriving, Le Pen was asked to wear a headscarf, but refused. Le Pen's National Front party claims Muslim immigration to France boosts terror risks, costs jobs and drains the nation's treasury. It is thought to be the first time she has met a foreign head of state.

Le Pen will also meet with Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai and others.

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