Sarkozy swipes at Le Pen over immigrant jibe

11th April 2007, Comments 0 comments

TOURS, France, April 10, 2007 (AFP) - France's presidential favourite Nicolas Sarkozy hit back at National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen on Tuesday, after he said that Sarkozy's immigrant origins were a factor in this month's elections.

TOURS, France, April 10, 2007 (AFP) - France's presidential favourite Nicolas Sarkozy hit back at National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen on Tuesday, after he said that Sarkozy's immigrant origins were a factor in this month's elections.

"I want to say to Monsieur Le Pen, who has implied that I am not sufficiently French to be president, that yes, I am the child of immigrants. I am the son of a Hungarian and the grandson of a Greek who fought for France in World War I," Sarkozy, 52, told a rally in the central city of Tours.

"Yes, my family came from abroad. But, Monsieur Le Pen, in my family we love France because we know what we owe to France. I am a Frenchman of mixed blood, who believes that one is French in as much as one loves France... France is not a race, it is not an ethnic group."

At the weekend Le Pen, 78, described Sarkozy as a "candidate who comes from immigration" and himself as a "candidate from the land".

"It's true that there is a difference, a choice that could be considered fundamental by a certain number of Frenchmen," said Le Pen, who is running in his fifth presidential election. 

Sarkozy, head of the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), leads in the polls less than two weeks ahead of the first round of voting on April 22. Only two candidates qualify for a deciding second round on May 6.

According to an Ipsos/Dell survey, Sarkozy can expect 30.5 percent of the first round vote, ahead of the socialist Segolene Royal on 23 percent and the centrist Francois Bayrou on 19.5 percent. Le Pen is fourth on 13 percent.

In a second round against Royal, Sarkozy would win by 54 percent to 46, according to the poll. However he would lose if facing Bayrou.

Several press commentators noted Tuesday that Le Pen's immigration jibe came at an opportune time for Sarkozy, enabling the candidate to deflect some of the criticism that arose from his recent call for a ministry of "immigration and national identity".

Speaking before several thousand cheering supporters in Tours, Sarkozy said again that it was right to "link immigration policy with integration policy".

"The identity of France consists of a certain number of values forged over a very long history. These values are universal, they express a great idea of mankind, and they are not negotiable," he said.

"Freedom of conscience: not negotiable; secularism: not negotiable;  male-female equality: not negotiable; human rights of man: not negotiable. Of those who want to live here, France asks one thing: that they concede that France does not start with their arrival, but a very long time ago."

Sarkozy was meanwhile drawing more criticism for a magazine interview in which he said that he tended to believe in a genetic cause for paedophilia and teenage suicide.

"What a monstrosity! How can one sanction theories that served as the ideological bases for fascism and nazism? ... It is totally unacceptable," said Communist Party candidate Marie-George Buffet.

"No republican, no humanist, faithful to the universalism of the enlightenment, could approve what he said," said socialist former prime minister Laurent Fabius.

Philosopher and writer Bernard-Henri Levi said that the notion that genetics pre-determines behaviour "is intolerable .... For Mr Sarkozy to think that we are acted on by our genes really floored me. I find it unforgiveable".

Sarkozy defended his remarks, saying he had wanted to stimulate debate.

"Who can tell me it is normal to want to rape a three-year-old child? At least let us talk about it. Let us not close the door to discussion," he said.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article