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Americas

Bannon address to National Front conference comes under French fire

media Steve Bannon in Zurich on 6 March REUTERS/Moritz Hager

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon's address to the national conference of France's National Front (FN) placed a question mark how much the far-right party has really changed, according to both pro-government politicians and the party's now-expelled cofounder, Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Bannon was due to address the FN's annual conference in the northern French city of Lille on Saturday afternoon, its vice-president Louis Aliot announced on Friday evening.

The former Trump adviser is "the embodiment of the rejection of the establishment, one of whose worst symbols is the European Union of Brussels", Aliot said in a tweet that carried a photo of the two shaking hands.

FN vice-president Louis Aliot says Bannon has "understood the peoples' will to take control of their destiny"

Bannon, who managed the final leg of Trump's election campaign, left the White House after Michael Wolff's book Fire and Fury reported disloyal remarks he had made.

Having returned to Breitbart News, the far-right website he helped found, he stepped down as executive chairman in January.

Le Pen reform claims questioned

A key supporter of President Emmanuel Macron claimed the invitation gives the lie to FN leader Marine Le Pen's claim to have "dedemonised" the party.

"The king of fake news and of white supremacists at an FN summit - why am I not surprised? Change of name but not political line," remarked the head of Macron's Republic on the Move party, Christophe Castaner.

Le Pen's father, Jean-Marie, who has been expelled after a long battle with his daughter, seemed to agree.

"I think that it is not exactly definition of dedemonisation," he said at a book-signing for the first volume of his memoirs in Paris on Saturday.

The move is "a bit paradoxical given that Steve Bannon was generally credited with being the most radical of Trump's advisers", he commented, adding that he had some sympathy for the American right-winger.

Aliot hit back by rejecting Castaner's "white supremacist" label, saying that it was his "Franco-Congolese network" that had put him in touch with Bannon.

FN MP Gilbert Collard did not seem to be on message, however.

He told FranceInfo TV that he did not "approve of Bannon at all" but seemed to defend the invitation on the grounds that "I can tell a racist that he is disgusting but I have to see him to be able to tell him."

Global nationalist network

Bannon is in Europe to try to build a global network of nationalists and help the continent's far right emulate Breitbart 's success, according to the New York Times, which says he has met politicians in Germany and Italy and may meet Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

It is important to get nationalist government in place in Europe to prepare for a coming clash between Western powers and an axis of the Turkish, Persian and Chinese civilisations, he told the paper.

Senator quits

The National Front lost one of its two senators on the eve of the conference.

Claudine Kauffman said she was leaving the party because of its "shameless nepotism" and "servile nomenklatura", although her departure had been on the cards since she was suspended for comparing migrants to vermin and their presence to the Nazi occupation of Frane in a tweet last year.

The weekend's conference is expected to endorse the principle of changing the party's name and put Marine Le Pen's proposal to a ballot of members.

On Saturday she said that the move was necessary because the FN has "grown up".

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