Image: Jean-Marie Le Pen
Christian Lutz  /  AP
French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, on Wednesday. Le Pen is in line to chair parliament's inaugural session after June's European elections. Traditionally, parliament's oldest sitting MEP opens the first session until MEPs elect a new president who then presides over all future plenary meetings.
updated 3/25/2009 10:44:06 PM ET 2009-03-26T02:44:06

French far right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen repeated his belief Wednesday that it "is a statement of fact" that the gas chambers where millions of Jews perished during World War II "were a detail of history."

Le Pen's made his outburst Wednesday, after European Socialist leader Martin Schulz tried to make sure that Le Pen, if re-elected in June, would be barred from presiding over the opening of the first session of the new European Parliament session as potentially the doyen of the house.

Le Pen, 80, has been convicted of racism or anti-Semitism at least six times, in one case calling the Nazi gas chambers "a detail of the history of the Second World War."

On Wednesday, when he was seeking to confront Schulz's move, Le Pen repeated the claim, "which is clear, which is a statement of fact."

Le Pen has been a member of the EU assembly off and on since 1984.

About 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust.

The major parties at the legislature joined in condemning Le Pen.

"Mr. Le Pen's negationist remarks, reiterated once again in the European Parliament, disqualify him from chairing the inaugural session of our institution for even a second when it opens at the beginning of the next legislative term," said Joseph Daul, the head of the Christian Democrats.

The socialists were equally disparaging.

"In this symbol of the reconciliation of European people, it would be an extremely bad signal for our citizens and the world. As a German, I have a duty to fight this," said Martin Schulz, the leader of the Socialists at the legislature.

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