BERLIN - German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday called the strong showing of the far right in the French election "alarming" after its candidate Marine Le Pen drew 18 per cent in the first-round vote.
Merkel continued to support incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy as France's next president but would work closely with whoever wins the May 6 run-off, her deputy spokesman, Georg Streiter, told a regular government news conference.
"This high score is alarming but I expect it will be ironed out in the second round," he said on the third-place result of Le Pen's anti-immigrant, anti-European National Front.
"The chancellor continues to support President Sarkozy," he told reporters, adding the deep Franco-German friendship was independent of the people in office.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle also welcomed a run-off between "two proven democratic candidates".
"Naturally we respect the electoral choice of the French citizens," Westerwelle said in a written statement.
"But it is good that the run-off now is taking place between two proven democratic candidates who stand for Europe and the German-Franco friendship," he added.
Merkel and Sarkozy have fostered close ties in fighting the eurozone debt crisis and pundits have questioned whether she could form a similar bond with his Socialist rival Francois Hollande if he wins the run-off.