PARIS (AP) _ If France was sorry for the defeat of Quebec's independence referendum, the government gave no sign Tuesday. But politicians expressed sympathy for the province's French-speakers.

Extreme-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, known for his anti-immigrant rhetoric, expressed sorrow at the ``bitter defeat'' and blamed ``foreigners in both heart and mind.''

``All those who fight around the world to defend their national identity will remember the lessons of this vote,'' Le Pen said in a statement.

The French government, which maintained neutrality during the campaign, said the narrow defeat Monday for separatist forces wouldn't affect France's attachment to Quebec.

``We will continue to establish, to maintain and to develop with Quebec the very warm ties that bind us,'' Foreign Minister Herve de Charette told legislators.

De Charette said Premier Alain Juppe will visit Quebec as planned early next year.

The government's neutrality was in stark contrast to the late President Charles de Gaulle, who angered Canadian leaders by shouting ``Long life free Quebec!'' during a state visit in 1967.

Another former president, Valery Giscard d'Estaing, said Tuesday that France ``should take into account the desire of the French-speaking people of Quebec to attain sovereignty.''