Marine Le Pen 'chosen to lead France's National Front'

Marine Le Pen speaks at a FN meeting (Dec 2010) Ms Le Pen looks set to be a genuine contender in the 2012 presidential elections

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France's far right National Front has chosen Marine Le Pen as its new leader, replacing her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, party officials say.

The results will be officially announced on Sunday, but party sources said she had secured about two-thirds of members' votes.

Mr Le Pen is stepping down after leading the ultra-nationalist party, which he founded, for almost 40 years.

In 2002 he came a shock second in the first round of presidential elections.

Mr Le Pen lost the second round to incumbent Jacques Chirac.

A count of votes cast ahead of the annual FN congress in the central city of Tours showed Ms Le Pen, 42, who had the backing of her father, had easily beaten her rival, Bruno Gollnisch.

The FN, with its anti-immigration agenda has been shunned by France's main parties.

But Ms Le Pen has said she wants to break with its xenophobic, anti-Islam image and is confident the FN can become part of mainstream politics.

A recent poll suggested the party could come third in the presidential elections to be held in 2012.

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