French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron warns of civil war under Marine Le Pen

Michelle Clifford, Senior News Correspondent, in Paris

French presidential hopeful Emmanuel Macron has accused his far-right rival Marine Le Pen of being brutal and capable of starting a civil war during an acrimonious television debate just days before voters go to the polls.

The pair sparred for more than two hours in a live face-off watched by up to 20 million people in France.

Mr Macron responded angrily after Ms Le Pen accused him of being soft on extremism. He insisted he would "fight against Islamic terrorism on every front".

:: In profile - Marine Le Pen

:: In profile - Emmanuel Macron

They clashed over their visions of France's future, the euro and ways of fighting terrorism during a highly ill-tempered debate ahead of Sunday's run-off vote for the presidency.

In angry exchanges, Ms Le Pen played up Mr Macron's background as a former banker and economy minister in the outgoing Socialist government.

Portraying him as Francois Hollande's lapdog, she said he was the "candidate of globalisation gone wild".

He tore into her flagship policy of abandoning the euro and accused her of failing to offer solutions to France's economic problems such as high unemployment.

The attacks were often personal with Mr Macron calling Ms Le Pen a "parasite" and a liar.

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Ms Le Pen told him he was young on the outside but old on the inside - insisting his policies had been around for years.

But their sharpest exchange was over national security - a sensitive subject in a country which has suffered a series of recent terrorist attacks.

Ms Le Pen accused Mr Macron of having no plan on security but being indulgent with Islamic extremism.

He told her that radicals would love her to become president because she would stoke conflict.

The TV appearance was the first time a National Front candidate has appeared in a run-off debate - an indication of how far Le Pen has brought her party by softening its image and trying to separate it from past xenophobic associations.

The candidates, who sat opposite each other in the television studio, offered opposed visions for France.

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