Israeli FM visits burned-out Jewish centre in Paris

24th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Aug 25 (AFP) - Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom on Wednesday reiterated his support for France's fight against anti-Semitism as he made an emotional visit to a Jewish centre torched by arsonists in Paris last weekend.

PARIS, Aug 25 (AFP) - Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom on Wednesday reiterated his support for France's fight against anti-Semitism as he made an emotional visit to a Jewish centre torched by arsonists in Paris last weekend.

"It's not something you want to see. The smell is not something you want to smell," Shalom told reporters after a 15-minute tour of the gutted ruins of the Jewish centre in eastern Paris.

The arsonists, who have not yet been apprehended, scrawled swastikas and anti-Semitic slogans inside the building.

Shalom, on the second day of an impromptu visit to France, said Israel was "encouraged by the determination of President (Jacques) Chirac and French ministers" to stamp out a disturbing spate of anti-Jewish attacks.

His trip was the first by a high-level Israeli official to France since Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last month urged French Jews to flee "the wildest anti-Semitism", a call that prompted a sharp rebuke from Chirac.

Sharon later toned down the rhetoric, praising Chirac's efforts to combat anti-Jewish feeling in France, saying he hoped the "example will be followed by other countries."

Shalom on Tuesday urged France to back up its strong words against anti-Semitism with vigorous action, saying: "Though statements are very important, actions are very important too."

The Israeli minister met Tuesday with his French counterpart Michel Barnier, with whom he discussed both the worrying wave of anti-Semitic attacks and the Middle East peace process, and Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin.

He was due to meet with Jewish leaders in Paris on Wednesday before heading back to Israel on Thursday.

The attack on the Jewish centre led Chirac's centre-right government, which has struggled to curb the rise in anti-Semitic acts, to declare a nationwide war on all forms of racism on Monday.

De Villepin said Tuesday that 160 anti-Semitic acts - assaults against individuals or property damage - had been committed in the first seven months of 2004, as compared with 75 such attacks in the same period last year.

France is home to Europe's largest Jewish and Muslim communities, estimated at 600,000 and five million respectively out of a total population of 60 million.

© AFP

Subject: French news

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