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'France first for the French people', Marion Le Pen tells US conservatives
Hardline former French MP Marion Marechal-Le Pen told American conservatives Thursday that her nation's far-right movement was "standing side by side" with the supporters and nationalist policies of President Donald Trump.
"Just like you, we want our country back," the telegenic 28-year-old niece of failed presidential candidate Marine Le Pen said from the main stage of the Conservative Political Action Conference, held each year just outside Washington.
Marechal-Le Pen is believed to be the first member of France's far-right National Front (FN) to address CPAC, a controversial move for a conference where US Vice President Mike Pence spoke to the crowd just minutes earlier, and where Trump himself is Friday's headliner.
Marechal-Le Pen, who decided not to run in last May's French election, urged the crowd not to see her as the "terrifying" figure she said the American press makes her out to be, but as an ideological partner.
"Here at CPAC, we are once again standing side by side in another battle for freedom," she said, speaking mainly in English.
"I am not offended when I hear President Donald Trump say 'America first,'" she said to a loud cheer.
"In fact, I want America first for the American people, I want Britain first for the British people, and I want France first for the French people!"
She praised conservatives for putting their ideals at the forefront. "Let us build on what you have achieved here, so that on both sides of the Atlantic, a conservative agenda may prevail."
Marechal-Le Pen made little mention of dropping out of politics, but did note that she recently launched a school of management and political science in order to "train the leaders of tomorrow."
"The challenge is immense," she said.
Marechal-Le Pen has insisted that her project is not partisan, and that the school will not be allied with any political party.
Her hardline stance on immigration, Islam and abortion commands a loyal grassroots following, but her party has recently shut down speculation that the young scion of the Le Pen family was making a political comeback.
Marechal-Le Pen also took aim at the European Union, a popular target for the far right.
The EU has "imposed" its laws and regulations on her country, she said, and politically correct immigration policies were altering France's character as a millenium-old Catholic nation.
"The result is the development of an Islamic counter society in France," she said.
"This is not the France that our grandparents fought for," she said, in an apparent nod to her grandfather Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of the FN.
"Vive la France!" an attendee shouted out.