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French far right leader Le Pen visits Trump Tower but no Trump talks

By Laila Kearney

By Laila Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen was seen at Trump Tower on Thursday, but a spokesman for President-elect Donald Trump said she did not meet with him or his team.

"No meetings with anyone," transition spokesman Sean Spicer said. "It's a public building."

Le Pen, whose National Front party holds anti-immigrant and anti-European Union views, was seen entering an elevator at the building, according to a Reuters witness, but she did not speak to reporters gathered there.

George Lombardi, a Trump friend who lives in Trump Tower, told reporters that he had coffee there Thursday with Le Pen, who he said he has known for 20 years. He said Le Pen did not request a meeting with Trump.

A day earlier, Lombardi said, they attended a party with people they believe might raise money for her campaign, including business people and diplomats.

"This is a perfectly privately encounter that she had with some friends of ours," Lombardi said. "Some people had been asking to meet her a long time ago, and she just happened to be here because I happen to live here."

Le Pen, who is currently projected to lose a runoff with conservative former prime minister Francois Fillon in next May's election, has struggled to raise money for her campaign both in France and abroad.

She has also sought to burnish her credentials with foreign appearances. Her staff in April announced that she would go to Britain to campaign for that country's exit from the European Union but she ended up not going after being shunned by the Brexit campaign.

Le Pen was seen at Trump Tower with Lombardi, Louis Aliot, her partner and vice president of National Front, and Ludovic De Danne, her international affairs adviser.

Her staff confirmed her visit to New York, characterizing it as a private trip.

"She took two days to have a break," campaign director David Rachline said.

Trump Tower has been the site of a series of meetings between Trump, a Republican, and business and political leaders as he assembles his administration ahead of his Jan. 20 inauguration. It also has become a tourist destination since Trump's surprise November election victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The group Human Rights Watch mentioned both Trump and Le Pen in a report warning that the rise of populist leaders threatens global human rights. It cited Trump's victory as well as Britain's move to leave the European Union led by Nigel Farage, who Trump has praised.

Le Pen is expected to earn enough votes in the first round of presidential voting in April to enter a second round election set for May 7.

Last summer Le Pen told a French magazine that if she were American, she would vote for Trump rather than Clinton. A week after Trump's victory, Le Pen said she, Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin "would be good for world peace."

(Reporting by Laila Kearney and Alexander Besant in New York and Emily Stephenson in Washington; Editing by Bill Trott and James Dalgleish)

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