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France's National Front Leader Criticizes Hollande's Response To Paris Attacks

ROBERT SIEGEL, BYLINE: One of President Francois Hollande's political rivals says his response to last Friday's attacks is insufficient and unworkable. Marine Le Pen leads the far-right national front. In the last presidential election here, she finished third with 18 percent of the vote. The idea that even one person responsible for the assault would be a Syrian admitted to the European Union and consequently to France as a refugee is grist for her party's long-term opposition to immigration. At National Front headquarters outside of Paris, I asked Le Pen what the French response to last Friday night's attacks should be.

MARINE LE PEN: (Through interpreter) France needs to do everything it ought to have done for years, especially since the attack on Charlie Hebdo. This year, we have experienced six attacks on French soil. We need to institute a major policy which would reestablish our own borders. This means we need to stop accepting this influx of immigrants who were 1 million this year and who will be 3 million more next year according to the European Commission.

And since it's clear to us that the Islamic State is using these migrations to infiltrate terrorists, we must restore the institutions of the army, the police and the justice system as well as customs which were destroyed under Sarkozy and under Francois Hollande. And we must eradicate Islamic fundamentalism on our soil.

SIEGEL: How many migrants from Syria, say, are - is the right number?

LE PEN: (Through interpreter) Once again, in 2015, we had 1 million arrive. The European Commission says that there will be 3 million more of them. The reserve is bottomless because even though certainly Syrians are part of that, there are other nationalities who pass themselves off as Syrian. Therefore, the danger is absolutely gigantic.

Personally, I believe that reason dictates that we leave these people in Syria or in Jordan in humanitarian camps where they would be safe. But to attract them into Europe as Madame Merkel did, in opinion, is madness.

SIEGEL: You've spoken of reestablishing the borders and mastering the borders. Does that mean renouncing treaties concerning free travel in Europe or the rights of refugees?

LE PEN: (Through interpreter) Yes, yes, absolutely, absolutely.

SIEGEL: And does that mean ripping up the European Union?

LE PEN: (Through interpreter) Yes, but my priority is the safety of the French people. My priority is the sovereignty of the French people over their own territory. The crazy ideology that forced European countries to eliminate their interior borders amounted to abandoning common sense. In fact, 95 percent of the world obviously has borders. You can't protect yourself without borders. You can expel people who are terrorists, but expel them where - to a border that doesn't exist any longer? That makes no sense whatsoever. Therefore, borders are an essential element to the liberty of a population. And if that means opposing the European Union, that's what we'll have to do.

SIEGEL: What about Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East, in Syria or in Iraq? What should France be doing there now?

LE PEN: (Through interpreter) One thing is very clear. We committed many errors with our American friends - the mistake of Libya, where we installed Islamist fundamentalism, the mistake of Syria, where we should have combated Bashar al-Assad knowing that, had Assad been defeated, it still would have been the Islamist fundamentalists who would have gained power. So I think we need to switch the rifle to the other shoulder. All those who fight against Islamic fundamentalism must be our allies without any reservation.

SIEGEL: You've said that France must determine who are her allies and who are her enemies. Should Bahsar al-Assad be an ally of France?

LE PEN: (Through interpreter) Yes - to fight against the Islamic State, yes because diplomacy is the politics of the lesser of two evils. My personal belief is that between Bashar al-Assad and the Islamic State, Bashar al-Assad is the lesser evil.

SIEGEL: Marine Le Pen, merci beaucoup.

LE PEN: Merci a vous.

SIEGEL: That's Marine Le Pen, leader of the French far-right party the National Front. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.