PARIS Far-right presidential challenger Marine Le Pen said capital controls could be used if she won the election and there was a run on banks as she negotiated France's exit from the European Union, but stressed they were unlikely to be needed.
In an interview with Reuters ahead of Sunday's decisive second round, Le Pen reaffirmed she wanted to take France out of the euro EUR= and said she hoped the French people would have a national currency in their pockets within two years.
Le Pen said she wanted to replace the EU single currency with another, looser type of cooperation in the form of the ECU basket of currencies that preceded the euro. That would exist alongside a national currency.
"The objective is to transform the euro 'single currency' into a euro 'common currency', going back to the ancestor of the euro, the ECU, which was an accounting unit that did not stop each country from having each its own currency," Le Pen said.
Calling the euro a deadweight on the French economy, the National Front candidate said a new national currency would better protect French people's savings. She accused the "establishment" of wanting to "frighten" voters into thinking otherwise.
"I am convinced there won't be any banking crisis," Le Pen said when asked if French negotiations to quit the EU could trigger a run on French banks.
Asked if she would impose capital controls if savers nevertheless did rush to take their money out of banks, she said: "If there's a run on banks, we could very well imagine such a solution for a few days, but I'm telling you it won't happen."
Le Pen said she would launch negotiations over reforms of the EU immediately after winning, saying this would allow France to regain national sovereignty. The talks would include ditching the euro as well as regaining control of France's borders and being able to decide French legislation alone, she said.
Those negotiations could last six to eight months, she said, after which France would hold a referendum on its EU membership.
If she were happy with the outcome of the negotiations she would recommend staying inside the bloc, she said. If not, she would urge voters to support France's exit, following Britain's example after its referendum last summer.
Le Pen said her first trip abroad would be to Brussels, headquarters of the EU, where she would inform leaders of EU member states of France's intentions.
The European Commission, the bloc's executive arm, would not be welcome at that meeting, she added.
Asked what she would say to German Chancellor Angela Merkel at their first meeting, Le Pen said: "France will now stand up for the interests of France."
For a graphic on the French Presidential election, click - here
For a graphic on the first round election, click - here
(Editing by Richard Lough)