Le Pen fears little support in presidential run

Extreme-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen said Wednesday he is having trouble getting the needed 500 official backers to run for president in 2007 and appealed to the prime minister to keep supporters' names secret. Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin turned down the request. Publishing the names of candidates' backers has had a dissuasive effect on those who might consider backing the candidacy of Le Pen, who shocked France in the 2002 race by making it to the runoff vote with incumbent President Jacques Chirac. At a news conference, Le Pen, head of the anti-immigration National Front, suggested for the first time that he might fall short of the needed 500 signatures of elected officials, who often are mayors. "I'm missing too many," Le Pen said when asked how many signatures he had obtained. He refused to specify the number of signatures he had gathered thus far.