What happened today in France's presidential race

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French President Francois Hollande

With 30 days to go before the first round of France's two-stage presidential election, the incumbent Francois Hollande made a rare sortie into the campaign after conservative candidate Francois Fillon accused him of orchestrating a smear campaign.

Here are three things that happened in the campaign on Friday:

- Hollande slams 'smear' charge -

President Hollande lashed out at Fillon, saying the 63-year-old rightwinger had exceeded the bounds of "dignity and responsibility" with his claims.

"I don't want to enter the electoral debate... but there is a dignity, a responsibility to respect," the president said. "Fillon is beyond that now."

On Thursday, Fillon charged that Hollande had headed a "secret cell" that was responsible for revelations that have led to criminal charges against the candidate.

Fillon has slid from frontrunner to third in the presidential race following "fake jobs" allegations, with the first round looming on April 23.

- Le Pen shares Putin's 'vision' -

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen praised Vladimir Putin's "new vision" of the world after meeting the Russian president in Moscow.

"A new world has emerged in the past years," said the head of the eurosceptic National Front (FN). "This is Vladimir Putin's world, Donald Trump's world in the United States, Mr (Narendra) Modi's world in India."

Le Pen, 48, said she "shares with all these great nations a vision of cooperation and not one of subservience -- a hawkish vision that has too often been expressed by the European Union."

- Gay groups press candidates -

France's LGBT groups said they are sending questionnaires to the 11 presidential candidates asking them to spell out their policies on gay rights issues.

The questions concern marriage and civil unions, adoption and other parenting issues, health and discrimination.

The umbrella grouping Inter-LGBT said they will post the candidates' responses on the website www.lgbt2017.fr as they are received.