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Jean-Marie Le Pen in hospital days after family row

The founder of France's far-right National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, has been hospitalized amid a bitter family feud with the party chief - his daughter Marine. The 86-year-old says he suffered a "small heart problem."

National Front (FN) founder Jean-Marie Le Pen was being kept in hospital for observation on Thursday after undergoing a "benign operation," his daughter Marine Le Pen said.

Joking and laughing from his bed, Jean-Marie told French news agency AFP that everything was fine, and that he didn't know when he would be discharged.

"It gives me an opportunity to rest," he said. "It is a small heart problem, nothing serious. The beast is strong."

Jean-Marie's hospitalization comes just days after a damaging political row with his successor as FN party leader, Marine.

Public rebuke

The quarrel

stemmed from a number of controversial statements

the older Le Pen had made to the press about the Holocaust, including the reiteration of his longheld view that the Nazi's gas chambers were merely a "detail of history."

Marine reportedly told the media last week that her dad was "really p------ me off," and that his status as honorary party president didn't "give him the right to hijack the National Front with vulgar provocations, seemingly designed to damage me, but which unfortunately hit the whole movement."

Jean-Marie subsequently

agreed to withdraw his candidacy

for regional elections, coming up in December, and named his granddaughter Marion Marechal-Le Pen as a replacement.

Jean-Marie is also facing disciplinary action from the party, and while Marine has requested he quit politics altogether, he has said he has no plans to do so.

Battle to win over voters

The younger Le Pen took over the FN party leadership from her father in 2011. During her time at the party's helm she has asserted a desire to change its racist, anti-Semitic image and

expand its voter support base.

Marine hopes to make a bid for the 2017 presidential election, and although polls suggest she is unlikely to win, she could make it to the second-round run-off if her party

continues to garner support

at its current level.

Time Magazine added Marine to its 2015 list of the world's 100 most influential people, released Thursday. The publication said her prediction of winning power within a decade was "a nightmarish prospect for millions" but "no longer seems preposterous."

nm/msh (AFP, Reuters)

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