The trial of French far-right leader and former presidential candidate, Jean-Marie Le Pen, on charges of denying the horrors of the Nazi occupation of France will be held in June 2007, after the next election, a court said on Thursday.

The charges against the founder of the National Front (FN) stem from comments he made to an extreme right-wing magazine in January 2005 in which he said the Nazis were "not especially inhumane" in France during World War II.

The 78 year-old caused outrage when he said that "in France at least the German occupation was not especially inhumane, even if there were a number of excesses - inevitable in a country of 550,000 square kilometres."

The remarks drew immediate comparisons with Le Pen's oft-quoted description of the Jewish Holocaust as a "detail" of the war.

A Paris court has ordered Le Pen to stand trial on June 1 and 2 next year on charges of "complicity in apologising for war crime" and in disputing the facts of crimes against humanity by the Nazis.

Le Pen, as the NF party's candidate, made a surprise showing in 2002 when he made it through to the second round of the presidential election that Jacques Chirac went on to win by a landslide.

The 2007 French presidential election is due to be held in two rounds starting in April.

According to Le Pen's attorney, Wallerand de Saint-Just, the far-right leader's remarks were not intended for publication but were made off-the-cuff in a conversation with the journalist after the formal interview had ended.

During the 1940-1944 occupation of France, with the help of the collaborationist Vichy government, the German authorities deported more than 70,000 French Jews to death camps, and thousands of French civilians died in reprisals by the German army - especially towards the end of the war.

However historical debate has raged over the degree of French acceptance of the occupation, which for most of the time was relatively peaceful compared with the experiences of countries in eastern Europe.