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Noisy crowds paraded through Paris and provincial cities Saturday to revile the far-right National Front, which in recent elections emerged as a crucial element in national politics.

The rallies were organized by leftist parties but drew a wide range of people, from anti-racism groups to conservative independents who declared themselves worried about National Front policies.

National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, who campaigns under the slogan "France First," blames immigrants for unemployment and crime. He has referred to Germany's World War II death camps as "a detail of history."

President Jacques Chirac dismissed the movement last week as "racist and xenophobic."

In elections for the governing councils in France's 22 regions earlier this month, the National Front won just over 15 percent.

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