Sarkozy says 'Jewish lobby' row with Algeria is over

30th November 2007, Comments 0 comments

30 November 2007, PARIS - French President Sarkozy said Thursday he had drawn a line under the row provoked by an Algerian minister's comments about the "Jewish lobby" after talks with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

30 November 2007

PARIS - French President Sarkozy said Thursday he had drawn a line under the row provoked by an Algerian minister's comments about the "Jewish lobby" after talks with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Sarkozy told French television late Thursday he considered the matter closed and confirmed that he would still be leaving Monday on a three-day visit to Algeria.

He said he had spoken at length with Bouteflika on the telephone, who had told him the comments made by his minister in no way reflected Algeria's position.

"I told him that I would fight antisemitism, Islamophobia and all forms of racism with all my strength," he added.

"I consider the incident is closed and I will go as a friend to Algeria."

Earlier Thursday, Bouteflika disowned remarks from his veterans minister Mohamed Cherif Abbas, who had said that Sarkozy owed his election to the "Jewish lobby".

Bouteflika told his French counterpart by telephone that Abbas's remarks in a newspaper interview a week ahead of Sarkozy's visit to the former French colony "in no way reflect Algeria's views."

He stressed that Sarkozy would be received "as a friend during his state visit to Algeria, a visit which is essential for both countries," the Algerian presidency said.

The telephone conversation specifically covered "the matter of the remarks attributed to the Algerian veterans affairs minister," the presidency stressed.

Earlier, in a statement to the official Algerian news agency APS, Bouteflika said "foreign policy is reserved for the president of the republic and his representatives, in particular the foreign minister."

That statement had come after France sought clarification of Abbas's remarks published Monday in the Al-Khabar newspaper.

"You know the origins of the president of France and you know who it was that brought him to power," Abbas had been quoted as saying.

"The way certain figures from the French left joined Sarkozy's right-wing government (reflects) the beliefs of the real architects of Sarkozy's rise to power -- the Jewish lobby which dominates the ruling class in France," he said.

Abbas cited in particular French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, a former Socialist Party member who is half-Jewish.

Sarkozy is the son of a Hungarian immigrant to France, while his maternal grandfather was a Jewish man from Greece.

Abbas's remarks brought strong reaction in France from politicians, rights groups and Jewish organisations.

"Given the legitimate emotion aroused by these comments, we are trying to clarify the Algerian position," French foreign ministry spokeswoman Pascale Andreani said earlier Thursday.

Abbas, himself a veteran of Algeria's 1954-1962 war of independence against France, did not deny making the comments but said Wednesday it had never been his intention to attack the image of a foreign head of state.

In the original interview Abbas was also outspoken on the issue of France recognising the crimes it allegedly committed under its 1830-1962 colonisation of Algeria.

"While France fails to recognise the crimes committed in Algeria, we can envisage neither reconciliation nor normalisation," he said.

Sarkozy has antagonised some in Algeria by saying France should no longer "repent" for its colonial past.

And relations between France and Algeria remain brittle after a friendship treaty was scrapped over the French refusal to meet Algerian demands for an apology for the "crimes" of colonisation.

AFP

Subject: French news

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