- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 25, 2002

BRUSSELS Jean-Marie Le Pen ventured into the lair of his sworn enemies in Brussels yesterday and accused the European Union of slavishly following American policy in the Middle East.

Ignoring charges of racism and Nazism by members of the European Parliament, the French presidential candidate said that recent horrors in the "cradle of Jesus" were an insult to God.

"France and Europe are absent, following the orders of the United States, which is deplorable," he said, calling the EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, an American stooge.

A press conference was canceled after left-wing members of the European Parliament and their staff invaded the packed room, scuffling with reporters trying to listen to Mr. Le Pen.

Mr. Le Pen's spokesman said the event had been taken over by "provocateurs" and had degenerated into a demonstration "organized by [incumbent French President] Jacques Chirac."

"We're not going to let them have the gift of a degrading scene that they have obviously prepared for the television cameras," the spokesman said.

The press conference will be held instead tomorrow at the Paris office of Mr. Le Pen's National Front party.

David Harley, the press chief of the European Parliament, said many of the parliamentarians had behaved disgracefully.

"If these French [parliamentarians] had spent more time making sure their citizens had gone out to vote last Sunday, instead of protesting at press conferences, Le Pen would have been knocked out of the election," Mr. Harley said.

Mr. Le Pen, who faces a runoff vote with Mr. Chirac on May 5, has promised an immediate referendum on withdrawal from the European Union and a return to the franc if elected.

His criticisms of EU policy in the Middle East are a strange twist.

The EU usually is criticized for tilting toward the Palestinian side in the conflict, in defiance of Washington, and failing to use its leverage to rein in Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Earlier this month, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for economic sanctions against Israel.

Mr. Le Pen's election manifesto is peppered with angry assertions that the EU has become a tool of Anglo-Saxon free-market interests, and that its new common foreign and security policy implies the demise of Europe's independence.

"Everything has to pass through Brussels, which in reality means New York," the document says.

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