Le Pen's party replacement steps down over Holocaust remarks

Indo Asian News Service

Paris, April 28 (IANS) Just days after taking over the position from Marine Le Pen, the interim leader of France's far-right National Front (FN) on Friday stepped down after facing criticism for comments he made apparently contesting the use of gas chambers during the Holocaust.

Jean-François Jalkh was named the interim president of the party on Tuesday after Le Pen stepped aside to fight for the French presidency.

Jalkh is to now give way to one of the far-right group's vice-presidents, Steeve Briois, Efe news reported.

Speaking to France's BFMTV, Le Pen's partner and party's Vice President Louis Aliot said Jalkh did not feel he was best poised to carry out his function and therefore would step down to "lodge a complaint and defend his honour".

Following Jalkh's appointment as interim leader, French media dug out comments he made during an interview over a decade ago in which he apparently contested the use of Zyklon B for the mass extermination of Jewish people by Nazis during the Holocaust.

"I consider that from a technical standpoint it is impossible -- and I stress, impossible -- to use it in mass exterminations. Why? Because you need several days to decontaminate a space (...) where Zyklon B has been used," he was reported as saying.

Jalkh was to continue in his position as Secretary-General of the Jeanne micro-party, founded by Le Pen, for which he was currently being investigated amid allegations that the party misused public funds during the 2012 legislative elections.

Le Pen's presidential rival, centrist Emmanuel Macron, has used the FN's far-right roots as a cornerstone attack tactic in his own campaign trail.

On Friday, Macron visited Oradour-sur-Glane in central France, where Waffen-SS troops murdered 642 people in June 1944 in the worst Nazi massacre in occupied France.

Opinion polls taken since the first round on Sunday suggest Macron, candidate of the En Marche (On The Move) movement, will easily beat Le Pen in the second round of vote for the presidency on May 7.

--IANS

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