France's conservative leader: Want to form "alliance" with Le Pen's National Rally

The 105th session of the Congress of Mayors in Paris

PARIS (Reuters) -France's conservative Republicans party chairman Eric Ciotti on Tuesday called for a country-wide alliance between his party's candidates and Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally (RN) in forthcoming parliamentary elections.

"We say the same things so let's stop making up imagined opposition", Ciotti told TF1 television.

Ciotti spoke to RN party leaders Le Pen and Jordan Bardella before announcing the move, which he said was aimed at ensuring the Republicans (LR) can secure enough seats to still form a parliamentary group.

"We need some sort of alliance and that's what I am offering", Ciotti said. He added: "This is what the vast majority of voters wants."

The call from Ciotti, who hails from the more conservative branch of LR, may drive a wedge through the party. More centrist members of the party have already said they would not countenance such a move.

Olivier Marleix, LR's chief in the lower house of parliament, said he would not support "any arrangement" with a far-right movement.

Marleix demanded Ciotti's resignation.

National Rally is widely expected to emerge as the strongest force after snap elections starting in three weeks, although the party may fall short of an absolute majority.

(Reporting by Tassilo Hummel; editing by Richard Lough)