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Mar 22, 9:16 AM EDT

Kremlin dismisses new claims against French candidate Fillon

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PARIS (AP) -- The Kremlin is dismissing a report that French presidential candidate Francois Fillon was paid 50,000 euros ($54,000) to arrange a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and a Lebanese magnate.

The report in investigative weekly Le Canard Enchaine says his consulting company arranged the meeting between Putin and Lebanese oil magnate Fouad Makhzoumi at an economic forum in 2015.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov compared the report to "fake news." He said Wednesday: "The president's meetings are organized according to protocol" and the Kremlin "doesn't need any intermediaries."

Fillon is also the target of a newly enlarged investigation into allegations that he gave his family government-funded jobs which they never did. He denies wrongdoing, but the accusations have damaged his campaign for the April-May election.

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