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Conservative presidential candidate Francois Fillon, left, and Far-left presidential candidate for the presidential election Jean-Luc Melenchon talk together prior to a television debate at French private TV channels BFM TV and CNews, in La Plaine-Saint-Denis, outside Paris, France, Tuesday, April 4, 2017. The 11 candidates in France's presidential race are preparing to face off in a crucial debate Tuesday evening, less than three weeks before the first round of the election. (Lionel Bonaventure/Pool Photo via AP)
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The Latest: French candidate Fillon backs tough, united EU

Conservative presidential candidate Francois Fillon, left, and Far-left presidential candidate for the presidential election Jean-Luc Melenchon talk together prior to a television debate at French private TV channels BFM TV and CNews, in La Plaine-Saint-Denis, outside Paris, France, Tuesday, April 4, 2017. The 11 candidates in France's presidential race are preparing to face off in a crucial debate Tuesday evening, less than three weeks before the first round of the election. (Lionel Bonaventure/Pool Photo via AP)

PARIS (AP) — The Latest on the French presidential election campaign (all times local):

1:40 p.m.

Conservative French presidential candidate Francois Fillon is campaigning for a tougher and more united Europe that can defend itself against violent extremists and unfair trade.

Most of the 11 French presidential candidates are skeptical about the 28-nation European Union, amid growing nationalist sentiment around Europe and Britain’s pending exit from the bloc.

But Fillon argued Thursday the EU is “indispensable” to ensure peace and prosperity. He warned that far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen’s proposals to leave the EU and the euro currency “would be assured chaos, and the explosion of Europe.”

He did say the bloc has become too heavily regulated and needs to “recreate itself.” He proposed tougher protection for external borders and tougher EU rules against trade dumping and tax evasion by U.S. or Asian companies.

Fillon was once the front-runner in the presidential race but corruption allegations have hurt his chances in the two-round April 23-May 7 election.

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10 a.m.

Conservative French presidential candidate Francois Fillon is threatening legal action over leaks that have deeply damaged his campaign — and that he believes came from President Francois Hollande.

Fillon said Thursday on France-Inter radio that he had detailed information about who was behind the leaks about parliamentary jobs he gave his wife and children. He said “when the time comes, I will pursue them” and “those who are at the origin of the affair will not sleep well in the future.”

Fillon has been given preliminary charges of embezzlement but denies wrongdoing. On Thursday he reiterated accusations that the Socialist president was linked to the leaks — accusations Hollande has denied.

Fillon was once the front-runner in the race for the April 23-May 7 election, but polls now suggest he would come in third.

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