French police raid Marine Le Pen's party offices over expenses scandal

French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen tried to raise her worldwide profile and press her pro-Syria, pro-Christian stance with a visit to Lebanon on Monday, holding her first campaign meeting with a head of state.

Le Pen's visit comes nine weeks before a French election in which she is among the leading candidates competing with conservative Francois Fillon for the presidency.

She is riding high in polls ahead of the two-stage presidential election on April 23 and May 7 election, and has denied the claims, describing the investigation as a vendetta against her.

Le Pen said on Facebook: "Is there anything more serious when you want to be President of the Republic than to go overseas to accuse the country you want to lead of a crime against humanity?"

"The worst mistake would be the amalgam between Islam and Muslims on one hand and terrorism on the other hand", Hariri said, in a statement issued by his office.

Rival presidential hopeful and former French economy minister Emmanuel Macron visited Beirut on January 24, where he met both Aoun and Hariri. The trip is Le Pen's first real public foray into foreign policy.

On Tuesday, Le Pen is to meet Lebanon's grand mufti, the leader of its Sunni community, the Maronite Christian patriarch and rightist Christian party leader Samir Geagea. She is running on an anti-immigrant and anti-European Union platform that critics say is a cover for islamophobia and xenophobia.

Le Pen said she and Hariri, who has longstanding ties to France, agreed on "the absolute necessity" for nations wanting to fight the Islamic State group tearing Syria and Iraq apart to come "to the table", an apparent reference to formal talks. Its Christians have long looked to France for security against the Middle East's turmoil.

Le Pen has vowed to hold a referendum on membership of the euro, which could spark a renewed Eurozone crisis.

  • Leroy Wright