Last updated: 13 January, 2012

Le Pen slams Qatar for investing in French suburbs

Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen on Friday lashed out at Qatar for investing in “Muslim” areas of French cities and for taking over Paris Saint-Germain football club.

“The massive investments which it has made in suburbs are made because of the very high proportion of Muslims who are in the French suburbs,” she told reporters.

“I think this situation could be very dangerous,” she said. “We are letting a foreign country choose its investments with regard to the religion of this or that part of the French population or of French territory.”

The tiny but very wealthy Gulf state of Qatar late last year set up a 50-million-euro ($67-million) fund for entrepreneurs from France’s often-deprived suburbs to set up businesses.

Le Pen, who is just two percentage points behind French President Nicolas Sarkozy less than four months before the election here, also said that she was not happy with Qatar’s takeover of Paris Saint-Germain last year.

“It does actually bother me that Qatar bought Paris Saint-Germain,” she said.

Qatar’s Crown Prince Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani is owner of the club through Qatar Sports Investments.

Le Pen said that in general Qatar was “playing a double game” by presenting itself as an “enlightened” country while at the same time supporting Islamist groups in the Middle East and North Africa.

Gas-rich Qatar is a traditional French ally and provided vital Arab support to French and British-led efforts to get a UN mandate for military action to protect civilians during the eight-month uprising in Libya.

Qatar provided military support to NATO-led operations in Libya, including deploying troops on the ground.

An IFOP opinion poll on Thursday showed in the first round of the French election in April, Socialist candidate Francois Hollande would take 27 percent of the vote, followed by Sarkozy at 23.5 percent and Le Pen at 21.5 percent.

The top two then go to a run-off two weeks later in May in which the survey said Hollande would beat Sarkozy 57 percent to 43 percent.

Marine Le Pen took over the leadership of the FN in January 2011 from her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, who stunned observers by making it into the second round of the presidential election in 2002 despite accusations of racism.

While sharing her father’s far-right views, the blonde telegenic 43-year-old has sought to soften the party’s image.