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Macron, Le Pen kick off final week with major Paris rallies

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Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron kick of the final week of the French presidential campaign with major rallies in Paris after weekend sparring on subjects ranging from the euro to the environment.

[PARIS] Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron kick of the final week of the French presidential campaign with major rallies in Paris after weekend sparring on subjects ranging from the euro to the environment.

With a week to go in the campaign, Ms Le Pen appeared to step back from her single most distinct policy, saying Saturday that there was no rush on a euro exit.

Then Sunday, in an interview with Le Parisien newspaper, she said "the euro is dead" and that she still wants to have two currencies - one for daily use by the population and one for international trade.

The key change she has made is to make the timing of a referendum on the matter less urgent, to help her win the backing of Nicolas Dupont Aignon, who had just under 5 per cent of the vote in the first round of the election.

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"Le Pen is trying to reassure people on the euro," said Bruno Cautres, a political scientist at SciencePo in Paris.

"But ultimately people perceive her as the anti-European candidate. This may win her a few votes by showing that she is pragmatic but fundamentally it's unlikely to change anything."

After months of campaigning, Ms Le Pen and pro-European centrist Macron became the finalists in France's presidential race last week. Voters face a choice between them on May 7 to replace Francois Hollande as head of state. Both said on France 2 television Sunday that they are spoiling to their one-on-one debate scheduled for Wednesday.

Though Mr Macron has consistently led in the polls, his margin has slipped in recent days as Ms Le Pen pulls out all the stops to secure the first-ever presidential election victory of the far-right party built up by her father starting in 1972.

Mr Macron, a 39-year-old former economy minister, currently has the support of 59.5 per cent of voters, compared with 40.5 per cent for Ms Le Pen, according to Bloomberg's composite of French polls.

"I'm not arrogant or presumptuous - no battle is won," Mr Macron said late Sunday.

Jean Luc Melenchon, the far-left candidate who took 19.2 per cent of the vote in the first round of the election and has so far refused to endorse Mr Macron said Sunday that the independent should make a "gesture" in dropping his commitment to reform French labour law.

"Mr Macron, you can't simply rely on voters who believe in your plans," he said on TF1 TV.

Ms Le Pen is scheduled to speak at noon Paris time and Mr Macron at 5 pm.

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