PARIS Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen said capital controls were an option if she won Sunday's presidential election and there was a run on banks as she negotiated France's exit from the European Union, but stressed they were unlikely to be needed.
After days of mixed messages about ditching the euro, a move unpopular with a majority of voters, Le Pen made clear in an interview on Tuesday that she wanted to take France out of the single currency EUR=.
"The euro has protected no one, quite the contrary. The euro has been a deadweight for prices, a deadweight for jobs, a deadweight for the competitiveness of our businesses and it would be much simpler to kick-start the economy without this common currency," Le Pen said.
She accused the political establishment of wanting to "frighten" voters into thinking otherwise.
Le Pen said she wanted to replace the EU single currency with another, looser type of cooperation in the form of the ECU basket of currencies that preceded the euro.
That would exist alongside a national currency, which she said she hoped the French people would have in their pockets within two years if she won power.
While a strong majority of National Front supporters back a return to the Franc, opinion polls show three quarters of French voters want to keep the euro, a major obstacle in Le Pen's run for the Elysee.
Last week Le Pen said abandoning the single currency was not her top economic priority and the measure has not featured on her campaign fliers ahead of the second round.
Both were widely viewed as moves to soothe the worries of mainstream right-wing voters whose backing she needs if she is to defy opinion polls and triumph. But she told Reuters it was because "99.999 percent of French know very well what my stance is."
France was a founding member of today's European Union and many investors believe its exit from the euro would precipitate the single currency's demise.
Asked if eventual French negotiations to quit the EU could trigger a run on French banks, Le Pen said: "I am convinced there won't be any banking crisis."
When pressed on whether she would impose capital controls if savers nevertheless did rush to take their money out of banks, she said: "If there's a run on banks, we could very well imagine such a solution for a few days, but I'm telling you it won't happen."
Le Pen said she would launch negotiations with the EU immediately after winning to regain national sovereignty. The talks would include dumping the euro as well as regaining control of France's borders and being able to decide French legislation alone, she said.
Those negotiations could last six to eight months, she said, after which France would hold a referendum on its EU membership. She advocated replacing the EU with a "Europe of projects", a loose cooperative of nations that collaborates on ventures spanning business, security and energy on a case-by-case basis.
If she were happy with the outcome of the negotiations, she would recommend staying inside the bloc, she said.
If she was dissatisfied, which would be most likely, she would urge voters to support France's exit, following Britain's example after its referendum last summer.
Le Pen said her first trip abroad would be to Brussels, headquarters of the EU, where she would inform leaders of EU member states of France's intentions.
The European Commission, the bloc's executive arm, would not be welcome at that meeting, she added.
Asked what she would say to German Chancellor Angela Merkel at their first meeting, Le Pen said: "France will now stand up for the interests of France."
(Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Richard Lough)