Sarkozy accuses former Socialist rulersof giving France anti-Semitic reputation

29th April 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 28 (AFP) - Nicolas Sarkozy, France's outspoken and popular finance minister, touched off fresh controversy Wednesday over anti-Semitism in his country, claiming the former Socialist government was responsible for stoking US perceptions of anti-Jewish attitudes here.

PARIS, April 28 (AFP) - Nicolas Sarkozy, France's outspoken and popular finance minister, touched off fresh controversy Wednesday over anti-Semitism in his country, claiming the former Socialist government was responsible for stoking US perceptions of anti-Jewish attitudes here.

"After five years of (former prime minister Lionel) Jospin's government, we managed to make people in the United States think that France was an anti-Semitic country," Sarkozy said during parliamentary debate.

Opposition Socialists stormed out of their seats and surrounded Sarkozy on the parliamentary podium, shouting "Apologies! Apologies!", while the party leader sent a formal protest to President Jacques Chirac over the incident.

Sarkozy, known for his zealous anti-crime policies while serving as interior minister, travelled last week to Washington for a meeting of the Group of Seven nations.

He was awarded a medal from US Jewish organizations there for his fight against discrimination.

In parliament, Sarkozy lashed out against his Socialist (PS) predecessor. Thanks from Jewish groups for fighting anti-Semitism "was not likely to be given to Mr. (Daniel) Vaillant", he said, referring to the former interior minister.

Vaillant told journalists afterward that Sarkozy's comments had "put France's honour at stake".

Even centre-right UDF spokesman Francois Sauvadet rapped the minister for an "exaggerated" outlash.

But deputies from Sarkozy's UMP party backed his comments.

"It seems the PS is losing its grip. We are aware of the laxity with which the fight against insecurity was led from 1997 to 2002, and in the absence of a deliberate strategy to fight insecurity the Jewish community in France was a primary victim," said deputy Christian Estrosi.

Partisan clashes have been on the rise in political debate, as opposition left and centre-left parties are emboldened after victory in regional elections last March and all parties position themselves ahead of a European Parliament vote in June.


© AFP

                                              Subject: French news

 

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