French presidential candidate Francois Fillon has said he would not pull out of the election campaign despite being summoned by magistrates investigating payments made to his wife.

In a statement, Mr Fillon said he did not use public money and gave work to those close to him because he knew he could trust them.

"I won't give in, I won't surrender, I won't pull out, I'll fight to the end," he said.

Mr Fillon's campaign has been battered for weeks by allegations that he paid his wife Penelope hundreds of thousands of euro of public money to be his parliamentary assistant, but that she actually did very little work.

He denies any wrongdoing and says it was a proper job.

Ms Fillon will also be charged over the allegations, a source close to the probe told AFP.

Mr Fillon said he has been informed that he will be summoned by magistrates on 15 March and described the inquiry as "political assassination".

The former prime minister said he will continue with his presidential campaign.

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An ally of Mr Fillon this afternoon quit the campaign, criticising him for failing to keep his word after he refused to withdraw his candidacy.

"I believe in respect for your word, it is essential to credibility in politics," Bruno Le Maire said.

In a statement to reporters earlier, Mr Fillon said "from the start, I have not been treated like anyone else facing the justice system.

"It's not just me they are killing, but the French presidential election," he said.

Mr Fillon had earlier led the race ahead of the elections in April and May but the allegations had cost him support and he has fallen behind far-right leader Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron.