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Marine Le Pen aims to put bite on Nicolas Sarkozy with halal meat claim

French National Front leader switches presidential campaign back to immigration with assertion about abbatoirs in Paris

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen switched her presidential campaign back to immigration on Sunday, by claiming all meat in Paris was halal, as she tried to head off President Nicolas Sarkozy’s attempts to lure her supporters.

At a congress of her National Front party in Lille, Le Pen said she had proof that all meat in Paris was halal and that she would lodge legal complaints against distributors for misleading consumers.

“This situation is a real deception and the government has been fully aware of it for months,” she told reporters at the conference. “All the abattoirs in the Paris region sell halal meat without exception.”

The main meat industry association, Interbev, denied the allegation and said most meat in Paris was not slaughtered under halal or kosher practices.

“While some halal and kosher meat does find its way into other distribution channels, that doesn’t affect the quality of the product in any way,” the Interbev president, Dominique Langlois, told France Info radio.

Le Pen is third in opinion polls behind Socialist candidate François Hollande and Sarkozy. The first round of the presidential election is on 22 April.

At one point in January, Le Pen was snapping at Sarkozy’s heels, but a poll on Friday showed Sarkozy had an 11-point lead over her in the first round of the election, although Hollande was comfortably ahead of the incumbent.

The poll gave Hollande 31% for the first round, Sarkozy 26% and Le Pen 15%

The National Front, founded 40 years ago by Le Pen’s ex-paratrooper father Jean-Marie, is still fuelled by anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Among her ideas for protecting welfare are toughening citizenship requirements, shutting borders and forbidding foreigners from access to any social aid.

Nicolas Bay, Le Pen’s adviser on immigration, said it was important that issues such as the halal meat claim were made public to show how Muslim values were increasingly influencing local policy and endangering France’s secular tradition.

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