France's Le Pen meets Bannon, changes mind on offer to help

ASSOCIATED PRESS
PARIS
Published

Marine Le Pen, the French far-right leader, has met with former White House strategist Steve Bannon and signaled her interest in his project to help European populist parties — just days after rejecting assistance from the American.

Le Pen's companion, French lawmaker Louis Aliot, said on BFMTV station on Friday that she met with Bannon a day earlier in Paris. Aliot said Bannon wants to provide "technical means" for nationalist parties ahead of next year's European elections. He added that Bannon made clear he "doesn't want to play a [political] role."

Le Pen said on Monday while in Rome that it was only European nations who would "shape the political forces ... to save Europe"— not an American. Le Pen's distancing was significant given Bannon has been making the rounds in Europe of late as part of his push for a trans-national, anti-European Union movement. Le Pen was in Rome to join Salvini at a union conference where they showed a united front before the European Parliament election in May.

Last month, Bannon appeared at a rally in Rome organized by a small far-right Italian opposition party, Brothers of Italy, where he heaped praise on Italy's populist, 5-Star-League government, and he was in Rome for the March 4 election that brought them to power.

While he didn't appear with Salvini, who spoke at the rally earlier in the day, the two have met and Salvini has purportedly signed onto The Movement, according to one of its proponents, Belgian politician Mischaël Modrikamen.

In March, Bannon spoke at Le Pen's National Front party congress, which had been aimed at remaking the far-right party's image after it suffered a crushing defeat to the pro-globalization forces that brought Emmanuel Macron to the French presidency. As part of the makeover, Le Pen changed the party name to National Rally.

Some in France had warned that Bannon's support could threaten Le Pen's efforts to cleanse the party of its racist stigma. Bannon had praised the extreme version of the National Front embodied by Le Pen's more hardline niece and rival, calling her one of the most important people in the world.

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