Le Pen Says Assad May Be Lesser of Two Evils for Syria's FutureBy
Le Pen held talks with Lebanese president, premier in Beirut
Lebanon only Middle Eastern country with Christian president
Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen said that having Syria ruled by President Bashar Al-Assad was a more “reassuring” choice for France, as the only realistic alternative for power was Islamic State.
Assad represented the “lesser evil,” she told Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Monday, according to comments released by his office after talks in Beirut. “There is no viable and plausible solution other than this binary choice, which is Bashar al-Assad on one hand and the Islamic state on the other hand,” she said. “Assad is obviously today a much more reassuring solution for France than the Islamic State.”
The French government, along with most of its allies, insists that Assad should leave office in order to bring peace to Syria. President Francois Hollande said last month that France was willing, though, to speak to all parties -- including the Assad administration -- to organize a political transition.
Le Pen also met with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, in her first major foreign policy initiative of the campaign. She is scheduled to meet Christian and Muslim religious leaders later Monday. Lebanon is a former French protectorate.
Her talks with Aoun, the only Christian president in the Middle East, included the Syrian refugee crisis and the need to join forces to combat Islamist extremists, Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency reported. Lebanon hosts more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees, whose presence has crippled its ailing economy.
Aoun, who was elected late last year, is backed by Hezbollah, an Iranian ally in the region.
Monday’s daily OpinionWay poll showed that first-round support for anti-euro candidate Le Pen rose 1 percentage point to 27 percent, with independent Emmanuel Macron and Republican Francois Fillon unchanged at 20 percent each.
While no surveys so far have shown Le Pen even close to a victory in May’s run-off, she’s quickly narrowing the gap. OpinionWay showed Macron would defeat Le Pen by 58 percent to 42 percent in the second round. His advantage has halved in less than two weeks.