Bannon to speak at National Front convention in France

Dead environmentalist's son tells of'chaotic flight from Iran

Steve Bannon, former Donald Trump strategist and architect of the United States president's nationalist, anti-immigrant campaign platform, will attend a Sunday congress of France's far-right National Front party. While addressing the ultra conservative political group at a gathering on Saturday, President Trump's former campaign executive turned ex-White House chief strategist told his French audience to embrace being called "racists" by their critics. As right-wing, anti-immigrant, parties gain strength across Europe Le Pen says the party needs to build broader alliances if it ever wants to govern.

Since taking over the National Front's presidency in 2011, Le Pen has worked to erase the footprint of her father - who has convictions for racism and anti-Semitism - to broaden the party's appeal.

The former Goldman Sachs investment banker, who was ousted from the White House a year ago and stepped down as chairman of Breitbart News Network in January, has visited Switzerland - he gave his first European speech in Zurich earlier in the week - and Italy, where voters last Sunday elected a parliament dominated by anti-immigrant populists.

Bannon, an American nationalist who ran the right-wing Breitbart News, was among Trump's closest aides during the 2016 USA election campaign, the presidential transition and his first months in office.

Bannon was himself a high-profile departure from the White House last August and was written off by Trump earlier this year, who named him "sloppy Steve", following the publication in January of incendiary comments attributed to him.

According to the New York Times, Bannon met with the National Front's Marine Le Pen the same day as his remarks.

Le Pen was hoping that the National Front congress in Lille would help her reassert her authority, after her defeat to pro-Europe centrist Emmanuel Macron prompted criticism of her style and policies.

Le Pen defended inviting Bannon, saying party members should listen to "the architect of Donald Trump's victory" in 2016.

A new name, leadership structure and bylaws are being unveiled at the conference this weekend with the aim of the party becoming relevant again.

The congress would mark a significant break with Le Pen's father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who founded the National Front in 1972 and has called a name change a "betrayal".

Speaking today at the conference, leader of the FN, Marine Le Pen, said: "Our individual and collective commitments go towards a cause that is greater than us".

Bannon spoke at the National Front's annual convention in the French city of Lille after traveling through Europe in recent weeks for meetings with populist leaders of various parties.

As FN president, she said she would propose a new name for the party at its conference on Sunday. It won more seats in the European Parliament than any other French party in 2014.

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