PARIS/BEIRUT (Reuters) - France’s far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen is due to visit Lebanon this weekend and will meet Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri and President Michel Aoun on Monday, officials said.
Le Pen’s visit, confirmed to Reuters by a member of her entourage, will come nine weeks from a French election in which she is among the leading candidates competing with conservative Francois Fillon for the presidency.
Many Lebanese fled to France, Lebanon’s former colonial power, during their country’s 1975-1990 civil war and became French citizens. A Lebanese source said Le Pen’s visit may be aimed partly at winning their votes ahead of the election.
A spokeswoman for Hariri said a meeting would take place on Monday. The Le Pen official said she would also meet Aoun. Sources in Aoun’s office confirmed the meeting, set for Monday.
Both Aoun and Hariri have close ties to France and have both lived there for many years. Sunni Muslim Hariri, whose family has close links to conservative former French President Jacques Chirac, still has a home there.
Aoun lived in exile in Paris after being forced from Lebanon at the end of the civil war by the Syrian army. During his time in exile, Aoun built strong ties with French politicians while campaigning against Syria’s military domination of Lebanon.
Emmanuel Macron, a socialist candidate for the French presidency, also visited Lebanon last month.
Reporting by Gerard Bon Paris and; Samia Nakhoul in Beirut; Editing by Toby Chopra and Editing by Dominic Evans