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French junior minister Pompili backs Macron for president

PARIS, March 21 (Reuters) - French junior minister and ecology party lawmaker Barbara Pompili gave her backing to Emmanuel Macron's presidential campaign on Tuesday, the first member of the Socialist government to do so.

"I've decided to back the programme and thus the candidacy of Emmanuel Macron," she said in a Twitter message. She noted among other things Macron's pro-Europe stand and her desire to keep far-right leader Marine Le Pen out of power.

Her backing came just hours after centrist and ex-economy minister Macron solidified his status as frontrunner in the election in a televised debate during which he clashed on immigration and Europe with his main rival, Le Pen.

(Reporting by Andrew Callus; Editing by Brian Love)