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Chesnot/Getty Images(PARIS) -- French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen announced Monday that she is temporarily stepping down from her party's leadership as she battles for the presidency. She will face off against Emmanuel Macron during the second round of the election on May 7.

"I'm taking a leave of absence as president of @FN_officiel [the Front National]; I'm now simply a candidate in the presidential election," Le Pen tweeted from her official account.

"Je me mets en congé de la présidence du @FN_officiel : je ne suis plus que la candidate à la présidentielle." #JT20h pic.twitter.com/4XaLe8rcIq

— Marine Le Pen (@MLP_officiel) April 24, 2017

Le Pen and Macron bested nine other candidates to advance past the first round of voting on Sunday. They will now spend two weeks fighting for votes ahead of the second and final round.

Her decision to step down from the leadership of the National Front party appears to be an attempt to broaden her appeal as she and Macron battle to gain the support of voters who backed losing candidates in the first round of voting.

Since the results of the first round of voting became clear, Macron has enjoyed a number of high-profile endorsements, including from French President François Hollande and Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.

The National Front's image has been tarnished by the reputation of her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who led the party until his daughter took it over in 2011.

The elder Le Pen was widely rebuked for calling Nazi gas chambers "a detail of history."

Marine Le Pen has denounced these remarks and worked to broaden her party's appeal.

The two opposing French candidates received tacit support from two opposing U.S. politicians in the lead up to the first round vote.

President Donald Trump, while not offering a formal endorsement, said in an interview that Le Pen was "the strongest on what's been going on in France."

Former President Barack Obama, meanwhile, phoned Macron to wish him well ahead of the vote. Obama's spokesman said it was not an official endorsement.

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ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Treasury has announced sanctions against 271 employees of the Syrian government agency believed to be responsible for developing chemical weapons like those used in an attack on dozens of civilians in the country earlier this month.

"These 271 SSRC employees have expertise in chemistry and related disciplines and/or have worked in support of SSRC’s chemical weapons program since at least 2012," the Treasury said in a statement.

The attack on April 4 in the village of Khan Sheikhoun, Syria killed more than 80 people and prompted a U.S. missile strike on the air base linked to the attack.

"The United States is sending a strong message with this action that we will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons by any actor and we intend to hold the Assad regime accountable for its unacceptable behavior," the statement from the Treasury said.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated. Please check back for the latest.

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- North Korea is trying to show strength at home by detaining another U.S. citizen while overall Chinese pressure on the East Asian nation is “working,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Monday morning.

"I think that North Korea’s been playing games from the very beginning," Haley said Monday on ABC News’ Good Morning America.

"I mean what we’re seeing is that Kim Jong Un is trying to really show his strength to the people of North Korea, whether it’s just with all of these threats or what he’s trying to do in terms of talking in terms of trying to start a war. And what we’ve said is we don’t want war, so don’t start one,” she continued.

Tony Kim, a U.S. citizen and professor, was detained in North Korea Saturday while trying to leave the country with his wife.

Haley said the United States is going to work with China to negotiate his release. Kim is at least the third American citizen now detained in North Korea.

Haley also said that China has "shown genuine concern" in regard to rising tensions with North Korea after the country tested another missile earlier this month.

"I think really the power has been through China, they have shown genuine concern," she said. "I think that they are trying to put the pressure on North Korea, and I think it’s working."

Chinese state media reported that President Trump had a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping Monday in which Xi urged restraint in dealing with North Korea. Trump has pressured China to increase its economic pressure on the North Korean regime.

China has proposed that the U.S. suspend military exercises with South Korea in exchange for North Korea halting its nuclear program, a proposal Haley strongly rejected.

"We're not going to do that," Haley said, adding that the U.S. will protect South Korea.

"What we can say is South Korea has been an ally from the very beginning. We want to protect them just as we’re protecting ourselves, and that’s what we said we were going to do is we were going to have the backs of our allies and we were going to call out our adversaries," she said.

When asked about how the president has modified campaign positions since entering office, Haley responded that he is reacting to changing times.

"I think it’s changing with the times," Haley said. "I mean the times that we’re dealing with right now we’re seeing some aggression from some bad actors, we’re seeing the need for strength with our allies and we’re seeing the need that we have to show force when we have to show force. And I think what we’ve seen the president do is say that he’s not afraid to make a decision, he’s not afraid to act, and he’s going to change with the circumstances. And that’s exactly what we want to see in a leader."

Trump will meet with Haley as well as the 15 members of the U.N. Security Council at the White House later Monday.

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Win McNamee/Getty Images(BERLIN) -- Ivanka Trump is set to make her debut on the world stage Tuesday with her first official foreign trip to attend the W20 Summit in Germany, where she will be received not only as first daughter but as one of the closest, most trusted advisers to the president of the United States.

While President Trump's nationalist campaign rhetoric may have rattled the European continent, his globalist and polished 35-year-old daughter may be able to smooth her father's image ahead of his own trip to Europe next month to attend the NATO and G7 Summits.

"There is really no greater emissary than a family member when you're traveling abroad, because these are the people who are closest to the president," says Anita McBride, a former chief of staff to former first lady Laura Bush. "They show something that is quite unique that no staff member, no adviser, no other emissary can really do."

Ivanka Trump is traveling to Berlin at the direct invitation of Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom the president famously accused of "ruining Germany" during the campaign but for whom he has since expressed respect. He received her at the White House for a visit last month.

According to the White House, Ivanka Trump's trip to Berlin, where she will attend the women-focused W20 Summit, was spurred by Merkel's participation in a roundtable the president's daughter hosted on Vocational Education and Workforce Development in Washington in March.

At the W20 summit, Ivanka Trump will take part in a high-profile panel on women's entrepreneurship that includes Merkel, International Monetary Fund Director Christine Lagarde, Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, among others.

Trump will also visit the U.S. embassy for a meet-and-greet with embassy staff while in Berlin, in addition to visiting a technical academy and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. She will cap her day by attending a gala dinner.

So, how unusual is it for a first daughter to represent the president abroad?

McBride says Ivanka Trump is in fact not breaking new ground here, even though she has taken a uniquely active role in her father's administration as an unpaid adviser, along with her husband Jared Kushner.

"It is not unusual that first family members would be engaged internationally with the full support of the president and the White House behind them," McBride said.

"We've had other first children represent their parents abroad. One of the best examples of that is Maureen Reagan, who traveled to Africa quite a bit on her father’s behalf," she continued. "She was very involved and very engaged."

And during her time working in President George W. Bush's administration, McBride said the 43rd president made it a priority to send a family member on a presidential delegation whenever possible.

"George Bush had traveled for his father to Zambia back in the 1990s and he saw first-hand how well received that was, as the son of the president, and he always remembered that," McBride said.

In the case of Ivanka Trump, McBride said, the first daughter has added credibility for this particular trip to the W20 Summit given her own experience as a woman entrepreneur and aide to the president on these issues.

"On a lot of levels, she's the right person to send," McBride said. "First, she's been personally invited by the chancellor. Two, she holds an official role and cares about these issues. And three, as the president's daughter, she's one of the closest people to him and he trusts her, and expects and wants her to be fully engaged on these issues for his administration."

Beyond participating in a panel discussion on women entrepreneurship, McBride said she's curious to see what deliverables the first daughter may have by the end of the trip.

"Is there something concrete? Is there something that she is going to point to that we are either doing or will be doing?" McBride said. "When you go to an event like this overseas, you are, as a general rule, bringing something to the table, so that will be interesting to see what she is offering."

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iStock/Thinkstock(PARIS) -- Far-right populist Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron claimed victory in Sunday's first-round vote in the French presidential election.

Besting nine other candidates, the two will now face off in a second and final round on May 7.

Celebrating his advancement, Macron addressed supporters in Paris, in a speech that called for unity and reiterated his support for the European Union.

"The deep seated feeling, age old feeling that has always pushed our people forward, the commitment to our country, the collective interest over division, this is what has won tonight," he said as a sea of supporters waved French flags. "This election has opened the door to optimism, to a new path to hope for Europe for the world."

With his words, he drew a sharp contrast with his opponent, who has floated the idea of referendum -- dubbed "Frexit" -- on whether to leave or remain in the E.U.

Favored to win the second-round, Macron -- a 39-year-old former government minister who has never held elected office -- was quick to cast himself as a political outsider, saying, "I have heard your expectations, for true change, for true democracy," and urged his voters to "start writing a whole new page in the political history of our country."

Le Pen, who appears to have come in second place, according to exit polls, said that the victory was an "honor" that she received "with humility and gratitude."

"From now on I have an immense responsibility of defending the French nation, its unity, its culture and its independence," she said. "The French must take advantage of this historical opportunity offered to them, because what is at stake here is the wild type of globalization endangering our civilization."

"The survival of France," was at stake in the second-round vote, she said.

She took shots at the European Union and sitting President François Hollande during her speech, before concluding and leading her supporters in singing the French national anthem.

Reports suggested that protesters in Paris have clashed with police in demonstrations against Le Pen's victory.

Sunday's result marked the first time that no major-party candidate would contest the second-round vote.

"This is still an anti-establishment outcome, even though Macron represents a centrist platform," Erik Brattberg, director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Europe Program, told ABC News. "Worth watching now is whether other French politicians will be rallying around Macron to defeat Le Pen in second round."

François Fillon, the conservative candidate who appears to have come in third place, conceded defeat, saying: "There is no other choice than to vote against the extreme right. Therefore I am voting for Emmanuel Macron."

French voters were going to the polls for a first-round vote to choose their next president from among 11 candidates, including Le Pen, who opposes immigration and has voiced skepticism about France's membership in the European Union.

Pre-election polls suggested Le Pen and Macron, an independent centrist and former economy minister, were in the lead.

"Le Pen did as expected. There was no hidden Le Pen vote in the first round. While she can get more votes in a second round with only one opponent, she has likely reached a ceiling among her core voters," Brattberg predicted.

Leading up to the vote, Fillon, a former prime minister embroiled in a scandal over alleged fake jobs given to his wife and children, appeared to be closing the gap in recent days, as was far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon.

"A last-minute push by Fillon and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon was not enough to get them into the run-off," Philip Crowther, a correspondent for France 24 in Washington, told ABC News. "This result is a disaster for France's main two parties -- the conservative Republican party and the Socialist party."

The election is seen as a litmus test for the future of the European Union and the spread of populism around the world.

More than 50,000 police and gendarmes were deployed to protect 66,000 polling stations for the election, which comes just three days after a deadly attack on Paris's famed Avenue des Champs-Elysees in which a police officer and a gunman were slain.

The presidential poll has consequences for the future of the European Union, for France's millions of Muslims and for world financial markets. It's also the first ever to be held while France is under a state of emergency, put in place since the November 2015 attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead.

President Trump said this week that he believed Le Pen was "the strongest on what's been going on in France," while former President Barack Obama called to wish Macron well in the poll.

Neither Trump nor Obama said he was making a formal endorsement.

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iStock/Thinkstock(PARIS) -- Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right populist Marine Le Pen appear to have won the first round of France’s presidential election.

They now advance to a second round vote that will held on May 7.

And the choice for France could be one of the most consequential in decades, analysts say.

At stake, analysts say, is nothing short of the direction of Europe and the European Union, with the two candidates offering starkly different visions for the future of France and its role on the world stage.

Here's a look at the two candidates who will almost certainly be on the ballot.

Le Pen: The Donald Trump of France?

Le Pen leads France's far-right Front National (FN) party, and was seen as a front-runner during the lead-up to the first round vote.

She has been propelled by similar political forces that saw the British vote to "Brexit" -– or leave the European Union -– and Donald Trump win the U.S. presidency this November.

Trump hinted before the first-round vote that he favored her candidacy over the others.

Ethnic and religious tensions have been stoked by repeated terror attacks. Unemployment has been stuck at around 10 percent for nearly five years. France's economic growth was meek in 2016 -– estimates put it just above 1 percent. These factors are driving frustration and anger in large parts of the country.

She has taken a strong stance against illegal immigration and championed anti-globalist sentiments. Le Pen has also proposed a referendum on France's membership in the E.U. Many have dubbed the hypothetical vote "Frexit."

Analysts have said that Le Pen being elected would pose an existential threat to the European Union –- the bloc of European democratic states that grouped together after World War II with the aim of preventing future strife.

"A Len Pen win would call into question the future of the entire European project," Erik Brattberg, director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Europe Program, told ABC News. "Her anti-EU, anti-immigration and anti-globalization stance would put her starkly at odds with whoever is elected the next chancellor of Germany, France's most important partner in Europe."

It could also be damaging to U.S. interests, Brattberg said: "Le Pen would seek to reorient French foreign policy away from the U.S. and NATO and towards Putin's Russia."

An anti-establish candidate but not an outsider, Le Pen comes from a family that has enjoyed the political spotlight for decades –- if not very successfully. Her father ran for the presidency five times.

The elder Le Pen led the Front National party before his daughter and his reputation continues to haunt her candidacy. He was widely rebuked for calling Nazi concentration camps "a detail of history." Marine Le Pen has denounced these remarks.

Even if she doesn't pull off a victory in two weeks time, Le Pen "would be well positioned to make another run next time around," Brattberg said.

Macron: France's own Justin Trudeau?

French voters have another choice: centrist and political newcomer Emmanuel Macron, a 39-year-old political neophyte who has been likened by some to Justin Trudeau of Canada..

Macron was the country's economy minister up until he quit in 2016 -- the same year he formed the En Marche! party. He has never held an elected office.

Unlike Le Pen, Macron is pro-Europe and made that clear in his victory speech after the first round vote.

"Macron would pursue a centrist approach, working closely with Germany to reform the Eurozone and the EU," Brattberg said.

His political platform earned him the tacit support of former President Obama, who called Macron to wish him well ahead of the first round vote. Obama's spokesman was quick to note that this was not a formal endorsement; however, the two are seen as political allies.

Populism remains ... popular

Heading into the second round of voting Macron is seen as the favorite to win. But similar predictions were made ahead of the Brexit vote and U.S. election this Fall.

Populism appears to be a driving force propelling far-right and far-left candidates and their ideas in major elections around the Western world over the past few years.

"The fact that some 40 percent of French voters opted for far-right or far-left candidates with anti-EU and anti-globalization agendas means that populism is alive and well in Europe," Brattberg said.

"Given the strong dissatisfaction with the status quo across Europe, there is no reason to think we have seen a 'peak populism' moment yet," he said.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A U.S. citizen and academic was detained in North Korea while trying to leave the country with his wife on Saturday, a spokesperson for the university that employed him has confirmed.

Tony Kim, 58, who goes by his Korean name-- Kim Sang-duk-- was detained while trying to board a flight to China from Pyongyang's international airport, according to Colin McCulloch, director of external relations at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), where Kim taught accounting.

The university's executive leadership released a statement Sunday saying that it "has learned that Mr Sang Duk (Tony) Kim was detained" by North Korean authorities as he was about to leave the country, "after several weeks of service, teaching at PUST.

"We understand that this detention is related to an investigation into matters that are not connected in any way with the work of PUST."

At least two other American citizens are currently being held by North Korea -- Otto Warmbier, a a 21-year-old student at University of Virginia, and Kim Dong Chul.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- While it's no secret that the ice on Earth's poles is melting, scientists are still learning about how rapidly these changes are happening.

Now a new study of water across the surface of Antarctica finds that the melting is occurring to a greater degree than previously thought.

“This study tells us there’s already a lot more melting going on than we thought,” co-author Robin Bell told Columbia University's Earth Institute last week in a press release about the study. “When you turn up the temperature, it’s only going to increase.”

Researchers from Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory conducted the study and published their findings in the journal Nature on Wednesday.

 The scientists "found extensive drainages of meltwater" flowing in parts of Antarctica where they did not expect to find it, according to the Earth Institute's press release.

Video provided by the Earth Institute, shows a 400-foot-wide waterfall draining a steady flow of turquoise water off the Nansen ice shelf and into the ocean.

 The Nansen ice shelf, which is on the southern side of the continent, is a mammoth glacier that stretches about 30 miles long and 10 miles wide, according to Geographic Names and Information Systems.

“This is not in the future — this is widespread now and has been for decades,” glaciologist Jonathan Kingslake told the Earth Institute. “I think most polar scientists have considered water moving across the surface of Antarctica to be extremely rare. But we found a lot of it, over very large areas.”

In January, scientists warned that a chunk of ice about the size of Delaware could soon break off the Larsen C ice shelf in northern Antarctica.

When the Delaware-sized chunk of ice breaks away, the Larsen C ice shelf could lose more than 10 percent of its area, according to Project MIDAS, a U.K.-based Antarctic research project.

The "event will fundamentally change the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula," Project MIDAS said.

Overwinterer at the Neumayer Station also support the #MarchForScience – our message of support from Antarctica! @ScienceMarchDC pic.twitter.com/7qObD39aY4

— AWI Medien (@AWI_de) April 22, 2017

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iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Prince William, Princess Kate, and Prince Harry put their hands together to push the red button that started the London Marathon. The royal trio, who founded a charity that aims to break the stigma surrounding mental health, were on hand to support the runners at the starting line Sunday morning.

It's #LondonMarathon day!

Whichever amazing cause you're running for, let's make this the #MentalHealth Marathon! #TeamHeadsTogether pic.twitter.com/sT3RxUa4Pa

— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) April 23, 2017

Their charity, Heads Together, is the Virgin London Marathon’s official charity partner this year and 700 runners are participating in support of mental health awareness. The royal trio gave hugs to some competitors ahead of the race and, after the event got underway, clapped, cheered and handed out water along the route.

Good luck everyone with lots of cheers from the crowd & Their Royal Highnesses. #Teamheadstogether #LondonMarathon pic.twitter.com/YN4JpyhpYG

— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) April 23, 2017

The runners got a surprise at Mile 22! #TeamHeadsTogether pic.twitter.com/qv3vckOydo

— Heads Together (@heads_together) April 23, 2017

An unprecedented security operation is underway to protect the runners and royals just weeks after a terror attack in Westminster left five dead and scores wounded. Hundreds of armed police with automatic weapons, sniffer dogs, and concrete and steel security barriers have been positioned in strategic locations along the route to prevent another Westminster-style vehicle attack. There are also major security checks in place surrounding St. James’ and the Mall leading to Buckingham Palace where more than 40,000 runners are vying to complete the grueling 26-mile course.

And away... they... GO! #Londonmarathon #bbcathletics pic.twitter.com/3TilyTzb7A

— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) April 23, 2017

WIlliam, Kate, and Harry dubbed the event the mental health marathon and many racers sported blue Heads Together headbands to support the cause. The young royals’ campaign to break the taboo surrounding mental health has had William, Kate, and Harry open up to the public about their own struggles. The normally stoic and reserved royals have shared some of their most intimate emotions to encourage others to seek help during moments of grief.

Earlier this week, Prince Harry,32, revealed for the first time that he sought counseling at his brother’s advice after nearly two decades of grief and difficulty coping following the death of his mother, Princess Diana, in 1997.

The fifth in line to the throne participated in a podcast with Bryony Gordon of The Telegraph newspaper. Prince Harry admitted shutting down all his emotions after his mother’s death. "My way of dealing with it was sticking my head in the sand, refusing to ever think about my mum, because, ‘Why would that help?’" he shared.

The weeklong campaign leading up to the marathon also saw Prince William discuss in a Facebook video with Lady Gaga her struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder. The prince and the pop star's emotional chat encouraged young people to seek help for mental health challenges when they need it.

The young royals have worked with prominent doctors, educators and health care professionals across the spectrum as they engage in their most high-profile campaign to date

On Friday, William, Kate and Harry released a candid new video for their Heads Together campaign that shows them discussing some of the most personal issues they have faced, including parenting and coping with Princess Diana's death.

Kate, 35, and William, 34, the parents of Princess Charlotte and Prince George, have opened up about the profound effects of becoming parents and the challenges they faced in the first few weeks after George was born in 2013.

William, Kate and Harry 's foundation has vowed to carry on their message beyond the marathon to benefit any young people, parents or veterans struggling with mental health issues and other challenges.

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ABC News(SYDNEY) -- Vice President Mike Pence took a brief break from being a statesman on Sunday, instead opting to be a tourist on his last full day in Australia.

And like any camera-toting tourist in a foreign land, he was quick to share photos of his excursions on social media.

 Pence, along with his wife Karen and their daughters Audrey and Charlotte, kicked off the day with a guided visit of Sydney's Taronga Zoo.

The Pences spent over an hour at the zoo, where they got up close and personal with an emu, an echidna, an owl, a possum -- and, being Australia, a kangaroo named Penny and a koala named Bai'yali.

"Couldn't visit Australia without seeing the kangaroos," the vice president tweeted. "Karen, Charlotte, Audrey and I enjoying our morning visit to @tarongazoo. #VPinAUS."

The second lady fed an emu named Widji leaves, while the vice president and Audrey petted him.

The vice president said, laughing, "Should we [take a] selfie?" But the emu didn't appear interested, and began walking away. Pence concluded, "Looks like he's done!"

Audrey, though, did manage to snap a selfie with a kangaroo. "I was obsessed with kangaroos as a kid," she said.

Thanks @tarongazoo for a fun and informative visit. #VPinAUS pic.twitter.com/Af2dhxn8cs

— Vice President Pence (@VP) April 23, 2017

The Pences then boarded a 60-foot cruiser, The Enigma, for a tour of Sydney Harbor. Joining him were the premier of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian, as well as New South Wales treasurer Dominic Perrottet and Australia's ambassador to the U.S., Joe Hockey.

"Thanks to NSW Premier 4 hosting beautiful Sydney Harbor tour," tweeted Pence, along with photos of the outing. "The stunning views are only surpassed by friendly Australian people. #VPinAUS."

 The Pences were then given a tour of the Sydney Opera House by its CEO, Louise Herron.

"Spectacular way to end our last full day in Sydney with a tour of the iconic Opera House," Pence tweeted.

Spectacular way to end our last full day in Sydney with a tour of the iconic Opera House. #VPinAUS pic.twitter.com/avkTzPyKYd

— Vice President Pence (@VP) April 23, 2017

The Pence clan also visited Government House, the official residence of the governor of New South Wales.

"It was a pleasure to be welcomed to Government House in Sydney by H.E. The Hon. David Hurley, Governor of New South Wales," the vice president tweeted.

It was a pleasure to be welcomed to Government House in Sydney by H.E. The Hon. David Hurley, Governor of New South Wales. #VPinAUS pic.twitter.com/gf22WuzMjf

— Vice President Pence (@VP) April 23, 2017

On Monday, Pence will fly from Sydney to Hawaii, the last stop of his 10-day trip to the Asia-Pacific region.

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iStock/Thinkstock(PARIS) -- Some 47 million French voters are set to head to the polls on Sunday in what could be one of the most consequential elections France has held in decades.

On the ballot are 11 candidates who span the political spectrum; if no single candidate garners a majority of the votes, two will advance to a run-off vote to be held in two weeks.

The week leading up to the vote saw President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama wading into the campaign half a world away, as well as a terrorist attack in Paris put the country on alert.

The vote could pose an existential threat for the European Union -– a major U.S. ally that has sustained a battering by last summer's Brexit vote -- the decision by the United Kingdom to pull out of the EU.

But what's all the fuss about? And why should we care?

Here's what you need to know.

Populists at the polls

"In this year's French election, voters face an almost existential question: what type of country should modern France be? A liberal and tolerant nation conducting economic reforms at home and playing an active role within the EU and in international affairs? Or a more closed nation, unwilling to undertake structural reforms, pursuing an anti-globalization and anti-EU agenda?" said Erik Brattberg, director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Europe Program.

Many of the same forces that elevated Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency and saw Brits vote to Brexit are at play in France.

Ethnic and religious tensions have been stoked by repeated terror attacks. Unemployment has been stuck at around 10 percent for nearly five years. France's economic growth was meek in 2016 -– estimates put it just above 1 percent.

These factors are driving frustration and anger in large parts of the country. The question is how will that translate on polling day.

"With populism and anti-establishment anger surging on both sides of the Atlantic -– leading to Brexit as well as Trump's election –- the French election will provide a critical indicator of whether the populist wave is still building, or beginning to subside," Charles Kupchan, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, told ABC News in an email.

The candidate who is seemingly poised to gain the most from the discontent is Front National leader Marine Le Pen.

Seen as a political ally of Trump and the United Kingdom's so-called Brexiteers (both of whom she has praised), Le Pen is among the frontrunners going into Sunday's poll.

Le Pen and Trump "both want to be tough on immigration and both have been accused of racism," Philip Crowther, a correspondent for France 24, explained to ABC News in an email.

Her candidacy is somewhat tarnished, however, by her father’s reputation. The elder Le Pen led the Front National party before his daughter, and was widely rebuked for calling Nazi concentration camps "a detail of history." Marine Le Pen has denounced these remarks.

She has taken a strong stance against illegal immigration and championed anti-globalist sentiments.

On immigration, she has said that those who enter France illegally "have no reason to stay in France, these people broke the law the minute they set foot on French soil."

And that strong stance could pay dividends.

"Confronted with a wave of immigrants in recent years, coupled with a succession of terrorist attacks, France and other European societies are experiencing heated debates about immigration and the integration of minorities into society," Kupchan said.

Le Pen –- along with some other less popular candidates -– has also proposed a referendum on France's membership in the E.U. Many have dubbed the hypothetical vote "Frexit."

The fresh-faced Frenchman

But her victory is far from guaranteed.

Leading recent polls, but just barely edging Le Pen, is 39-year-old Emmanuel Macron -– a political newcomer who has never held elected office.

A centrist who wants to see France remain in the E.U., the political neophyte "is seen as the candidate most likely to stop Le Pen in her tracks," Crowther said.

Previously appointed as economy minister by the current (and widely unpopular) government, Macron quit his job in 2016 and formed the En Marche! party, which now claims a quarter of a million supporters.

His political platform earned him the tacit support of none other than President Obama this week, who called Macron to wish him well. Obama's spokesman was quick to note that this was not a formal endorsement; however, the two are seen as political allies.

Macron and Le Pen face strong competition from conservative Francois Fillon and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon.

Continental quandary

While Sunday's vote will almost certainly not determine the presidency –- every election since 1965 has gone to a run-off -– it will determine which two candidates will contest the final vote on May 7.

Analysts say that this French election could prove to be a matter of life and death for the European Union –- the bloc of democratic European countries that grew out of a desire for cooperation after the strife of World War II.

"Depending on who is elected, the European Union, the United States' major trading partner, is in danger of crumbling," Crowther said.

The U.S. and E.U. are strong diplomatic allies on the international stage, and commerce between the two represents the largest bilateral trade relationship in the world.

Within the E.U., France is the third largest economy (after Germany and the soon-to-be-exiting United Kingdom).

A French decision to leave the E.U., "would undermine Europe even more than Brexit, at a very crucial time," Carnegie's Brattberg said.

Kupchan agreed, saying: "If Le Pen or Melenchon were to win and seek to guide France out of the E.U., the European project might well collapse. Britain is already in the process of quitting the union, which would likely not survive a French departure.

"A collective Europe remains America's best partner in the world," he continued. "To see the E.U. unravel and Europe's separate nation-states and borders come back to life would constitute a historic setback. Especially in the face of rising challenges from non-democratic states like Russia and China."

Yet, Le Pen's promise to put France first appears to have strong appeal among a support base that is wary of Europe's largely open borders and the broader forces of globalization.

Similar sentiments have propelled two shock votes elsewhere in less than a year. Sunday will see whether Le Pen can capitalize on them within her country –- and thus put herself on a path to shake up the whole of Europe.

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Family of Ahmed Hassan(NEW YORK) -- The family of a 17-year-old New Jersey boy who has been imprisoned in Egypt since December are calling on U.S. authorities to do more to secure his release.

Ahmed Hassan was arrested on Dec. 1, 2016 while staying with his extended family at their home in Zagazig, a city in the Egyptian Nile Delta, his family said. According to Ahmed's lawyers and father, the teen was taken into custody when the police came to arrest his uncle on a minor building code violation.

Family members present at the time got involved in a dispute with the authorities, which resulted in the arrest of seven of them, including Hassan. The family members were sentenced to a year in prison for resisting authorities, according to Hassan's father, Mohamed Mostafa.

The family had been anxiously awaiting a court hearing that would reconsider Hassan's imprisonment, Mostafa told ABC news. The hearing was scheduled for April 19 but was postponed until July 16 because the police were not available to secure his transportation to court, Mostafa said.

"I went with the lawyer to see the judge overseeing Ahmed’s case and begged him to set an earlier date to look into his reconsideration, but he refused,” Mostafa said.

While he awaits the July court date, Hassan is living in a cell packed with other people, his father said, adding that he said he must pay the other prisoners in order to get a small amount of space to be able to sleep on.

In March, Hassan sent a letter to President Donald Trump begging him to intercede with the Egyptian authorities on his behalf.

"I am in a jail cell with more than 20 adults. It is scary to be here with these people and the police," Hassan wrote. "Mr. President, please help me. I want to be with my family and friends. I am proud to be an American. I beg you to defend my right to be free."

A copy of Hassan's letter was provided to ABC News by Pretrial Rights International, a legal advocacy organization that is working on his case.

The families of other U.S. citizens imprisoned in Egypt had also written a letter to President Trump ahead of his April 3 meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. In addition to Hassan, the letter asked Trump to intercede on behalf of Mustafa Kassem, 52, and Ahmed Etwiy, 23, who have both been imprisoned since 2013.

"Mr. President, we believe in your commitment to represent Americans first and the values America holds dear, especially freedom. We urge you to demand that President Sisi release all unjustly detained prisoners in Egypt, including our American family members," the letter stated. It was signed by Mostafa, Eman Kassem and Dr. Nagwa El Kordy.

Hassan was born and raised in the US, where his father has been a resident since 1984. Hassan and other members of the family have been going back and forth between the US and Egypt since the mid-2000s.

Before his arrest, Hassan was living in Atlantic City and studying for his SATs, hoping to return to the US for college, his family said.

Praveen Madhiraju is a lawyer with Pretrial Rights International who is working on Hassan's case pro-bono. He said that when Hassan was arrested, the Egyptian authorities wanted to record his nationality as Egyptian, while Hassan insisted that he is American.

“They made fun of him and said 'they [the US government] will do nothing for you,'" Madhiraju said.

The DC-based lawyer adds that his organization is currently engaged in talks with both the State Department and Congress to try to pressure Egyptian authorities to release Hassan.

The family has also been in touch with the US embassy in Egypt. But Hassan's father said their response so far has been a "disappointment."

"The person who came from the US embassy didn’t even see where Ahmed is jailed. They meet him only at the office and said: 'We don't attend the questioning, we only follow up after,'" Mostafa said. "I am American. I have the right to be defended and protected. Otherwise, what’s the reason to be an American citizen?"

The U.S. embassy did not return ABC News' request for comment.

According to Praveen, Hassan is one of approximately 19 American citizens currently jailed in Egypt.

Earlier this week, an Egyptian court acquitted 30-year-old Aya Hijazi, an Egyptian-American aid worker. She had been detained for nearly three years on charges related to child abuse. On Thursday, Hijazi met with Trump at the White House.

"We are very happy to have Aya back home," Trump said.

But Hassan's family are left wondering if and when he will be next. Mostafa said that he was happy to hear that Hijazi had been release because it showed that applying pressure on Egyptian authorities can yield positive results. But he also said it was "hypocritical" that pressure was not being applied by the US to free Hassan.

"Why is there no pressure for Ahmed’s case? Is there a difference between people working in human rights and a normal citizen?" Mostafa said.

Meanwhile, the teen's father also worries that they are running out of options to get bring him home.

"I see Ahmed every Sunday," Mostafa said. "He is staying strong but he is starting to break down. He has been in prison for four months and was hoping to leave after his hearing before it got postponed."

Mostafa said Hassan's fate seems to rest in the hands of el-Sissi.

"Our only hope now is for a presidential pardon," he said.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A Taliban leader once known as a shadow governor of an Afghanistan province has been killed in a U.S. airstrike, U.S. forces in that country said.

Quari Tayib, at one time known as the Taliban shadow governor of Takhar Province, was killed in an airstrike in Archi District, Kunduz Province, Afghanistan on Apr. 17, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan said in a press release Saturday morning.

"Tayib had been a target of interest since 2011 and was directly responsible for the deaths of U.S. service members in Afghanistan," the release said. "Eight additional Taliban fighters were killed in the strike."

The airstrike was part of what the military described as ongoing efforts to deny Taliban freedom of movement in the area, release said, adding that it targeted a compound Tayib owned and used for insurgents in the area.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- As North Korea blusters about launching missile strikes against the United States and its allies, experts are warning that aggressive action from North Korea is more likely to come from cyber space.

While Kim Jong-Un has struggled to develop a traditional arsenal to rival those of his enemies as international sanctions have barred Pyongang from the global financial system, North Korea’s military has cultivated an increasingly sophisticated group of hackers capable of launching cyber-attacks on Western and Western-backed targets.

John Carlin, a former assistant attorney general for national security and an ABC News contributor, said the government hasn’t done enough to protect the country’s core infrastructure from North Korea and other cyber threats.

“We're still vulnerable,” Carlin told ABC News. “The threat in this space way outmatches what our current defenses are. It needs to be a top priority of this administration and this Congress to fix it … You’ve seen all these attacks take place. It’s not a hypothetical.”

He cited two recent examples of cyber-attacks U.S. officials suspect were carried out by North Korea. In 2014, a group calling themselves the Guardians of Peace hacked Sony Pictures Entertainment, delaying the release of The Interview, a comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco that depicted a fictional assassination attempt on Kim Jong-Un. In the following days, the hackers released proprietary information and embarrassing emails, costing the studio millions of dollars.

In 2016, hackers stole $81 million of Bangladeshi funds from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York through the SWIFT network, a financial messaging service used by thousands of banks around the world. According to The New York Times, U.S. officials are investigating whether North Korea was involved because the hackers used a piece of code that also appeared in the cyber-attack on Sony.

The North Korean government has denied any hacking allegations, but the Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky released a report earlier this month linking the hacker group “Lazarus” to both the Sony and SWIFT attacks and tracking “Lazarus” back to an IP address in North Korea.

In January, President Donald Trump pledged to appoint a team to deliver a plan to address U.S. cybersecurity vulnerabilities within 90 days of his inauguration, but Carlin noted that deadline has come and gone without a plan or a team in place.

“I can't think of a more urgent problem facing this administration, but as of yet we haven't heard what their strategy will be,” Carlin said. “I hope that it goes to the top of their agenda.”

A senior administration official declined to comment on when the president’s cybersecurity plan might be made public but told ABC News that, despite reports to the contrary, a “fully functional” cybersecurity team led by White House National Security Council cybersecurity coordinator Robert Joyce is already in place. Related efforts spearheaded by Jared Kushner and Rudy Giuliani are also underway, the official said, but it is Joyce who will set cybersecurity priorities.

The official acknowledged, however, that the government has “a long way to go” when it comes to cybersecurity, citing vulnerabilities in some federal networks.

“There are over 200 departments and agencies and they’re not all equipped to do cybersecurity right,” the official said. “Nobody would be credible if they claimed anything different.”

Those vulnerabilities could be exploited by foreign hackers. A cyber brigade is easier to develop than a traditional fighting force, even for a country with extremely poor network infrastructure. North Korea only made its first known connection to the Internet in 2010, and access remains tightly controlled by the government and limited to only a select group of citizens. As a result, Internet use in North Korea is among the lowest in the world, with only about 14,000 Internet users in the country in 2016, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) within the United Nations.

An extensive report on North Korea's cyber capabilities compiled in 2014 by the technology firm HP determined that North Korea’s poor connectivity hasn’t stopped its government from building a team of so-called “cyber warriors.” Defectors say the regime identifies schoolchildren who show promise in mathematics, sends prospects to elite academies for rigorous computer science training and eventually recruits successful students into a cyber operations branch of the military. These “cyber warriors,” HP says, are some of the only North Koreans with access to the Internet.

"If they're going on the offensive, cyber makes a lot of sense for them," said Martyn Williams of 38 North, who specializes in coverage of North Korea's technological capabilities. "Some of those things you see in the parades look scary, but they don't have the resources to match the weaponry of the United States or South Korea. When it comes to cyber, it's much easier to become a formidable opponent, so it's a much more even playing field."

The exact size of the force, which is spread out among several different units overseen by the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB) within the General Staff Department of the Korean People's Army, is unknown, but a South Korean government analysis also conducted in 2014 estimated that the force could include nearly 6,000 soldiers, many of whom operate in foreign countries to hide their activity. The HP report pinpointed the location of one group, for example, called Unit 121, which is believed to have launched attacks on “enemy networks” in both the United States and South Korea from China, not far from the North Korean border.

John Bambenek of Fidelis Cybersecurity, who frequently consults for U.S. government agencies, says that many U.S. institutions, most notably banks, are also unprepared to defend themselves against a hostile intelligence service.

“Would they be able to compromise the CIA? No,” Bambenek said. ”But I think they could certainly go after soft target.”

Cyber thefts from financial institutions could bring security concerns about North Korea full circle, raising the question of whether North Korea might be pouring those allegedly stolen funds into its missile program.

Anthony Ruggiero, a senior fellow specializing in North Korea at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy, says these alleged heists could be part of a new strategy to circumvent the international sanctions designed to cripple the missile program.

“North Korea has a long history of engaging illicit activities to acquire funds for its nuclear missile program, which they see it as key to the regime’s survival,” Ruggiero said. “As we squeeze more and are more successful, they may turn to illicit activities more. Cyber is one of the tools in their toolkit.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(PARIS) -- Thursday’s shooting on the Champs-Elysees boulevard in Paris has pushed security to the top of the political agenda and added more unpredictability to a close presidential race two days before French voters head to the polls.

The attack, which killed one police officer, could influence voters who will cast their ballots Sunday, analysts say.

“It seems inevitable that this attack will have some impact on Sunday’s vote,” Jim Shields, professor of French politics at Aston University in Birmingham, England, told ABC News. “We have had terrorist attacks during other election campaigns but never this close to polling day.”

Four candidates lead the race, which is still too tight to call – so even a small effect on the first round of voting Sunday could make a big difference, he said.

“With four leading candidates running neck and neck and up to a third of voters still undecided, even a marginal effect in increasing support for a particular candidate could be decisive,” he said.

This could benefit two candidates, he added: far-right leader Marine Le Pen and the conservative François Fillon, who have made security and the fight against terrorism central issues in their campaigns. The candidates who could lose votes are centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who had seen a recent surge in polls, he said.

Le Pen, slightly behind frontrunner Macron in the polls, has already reacted to the attack by saying she will introduce tougher immigration and border control, and she will likely continue to capitalize on it, said Françoise Boucek, lecturer at the School of Politics and International Relations at Queen Mary University of London.

“I definitely think that it’s Le Pen who might try to capitalize on it the most because her agenda is really about internal security, anti-terrorism and anti-Islamism. She’s going to capitalize on this and say, ‘Look, that's what I’ve been saying all along,’” Boucek told ABC News.

France has been under a state of emergency since November 2015. The country has seen a series of attacks that have killed nearly 240 people in the past two years. Thursday’s attack reminds voters of the security challenges the country is facing, Boucek said.

“It puts internal security on the top of the agenda and on the top of people’s consciousness so I would think that this is definitely going to affect people’s decisions on Sunday,” she said.

Le Pen is expected to make it to the second round, which she is then predicted to lose to Macron, according to the polls. Boucek said she’d still be surprised if Le Pen became president, even if she does get more votes than expected before Thursday’s attack.

President Trump tweeted Friday that the attack "will have a big effect" on the presidential election.

 

Another terrorist attack in Paris. The people of France will not take much more of this. Will have a big effect on presidential election!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2017

 

The attack adds to an already unpredictable race, said Simon Lightfoot, senior lecturer in European Politics at the University of Leeds.

Thursday’s attack is likely to benefit Le Pen and Fillon, he said. Le Pen was already expected to move on to the second round so the question is whether Fillon could now get enough votes to be the second candidate.

“If it’s a runoff between two right-wing candidates; it will be quite interesting,” Lightfoot told ABC News.

But the latest polls suggest that the second-round runoff on May 7 will be between Macron and Le Pen, and even if more people vote for Le Pen because of Thursday's attack, he doesn’t think the shift will be big enough for a far-right victory.

“I don’t think it will change the runoff dramatically,” he said.

Le Pen is an anti-European Union politician who has promised to dump the euro currency. If she wins, it could change France’s place in the world and deal a blow to the E.U., already dealing with the British exit from the bloc.

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