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French far-right party marches toward European elections, rallying support at annual gathering

Thousands of people have joined French far-right leader Marine Le Pen in her party's annual march, their sights set on European elections this month after rousing victories in local voting.

Le Pen, who has taken her party from pariah status to mainstream, laid a wreath Thursday at the statue of Joan of Arc, the National Front's patron saint, before addressing a crowd gathered outside the Paris Opera.

She condemned the euro and the European Union, but urged followers to vote in European parliamentary elections.

Nationalist ideas are making inroads among European voters disillusioned by Europe's economic woes, and could influence May 22-25 voting for a new European Parliament. Le Pen wants to capitalize on recent victories in municipal elections that gave her party control of 11 towns.