French far-right sues black minister in race row

The party immediately dropped the candidate, but Taubira, who is from French Guiana, on Saturday responded with a fierce salvo against the "deadly and murderous thought" of the FN.

 "It's blacks in tree branches, Arabs in the sea, homosexuals in the Seine (river), Jews in the oven and so on," she said. The FN, an anti-immigration, eurosceptic party, in turn responded by saying it would take legal action against Taubira to "uphold the rules of democratic and republican debate and the honour of millions of French who vote for the party."

It was not clear what the basis of any FN legal action would be and Taubira said she was unconcerned by the prospect. "I'm calmly awaiting the FN's complaint and any court case it leads to," she said today. The remark that originally sparked the row meanwhile is to be investigated to see if it breaches legislation relating to the incitement of racial discrimination.

Judicial sources said the former FN candidate, Anne-Sophie Leclere, would face a preliminary probe that will decide whether there is a basis for prosecution. The CRAN -- a French umbrella group of associations that fight discrimination against black people -- reacted to the row today by saying "the world has turned upside down."

"Christiane Taubira is insulted by an FN candidate, and in the end it's the minister who is taken to court by the National Front," Louis-Georges Tin, head of the organisation, said in a statement. The FN has been seeking a makeover to broaden its voter appeal and dispel its xenophobic image, and appears to be succeeding.

It recently won a key local by-election and is tipped to be the leading French party in European elections also due next year. The party's image has long been linked to the personality of its founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen -- the father of current party leader Marine Le Pen -- who has been repeatedly convicted of racial hatred and Holocaust denial. In its statement, the CRAN organisation also denounced what it said was a drift to the right of French politics.  

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