Spanish PM backs France in Roma expulsions row

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Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has backed France in the row over its expulsion of foreign Roma, saying the policy was not ethnically based in an interview published Wednesday.

"They haven't been deported because of their ethnic origin," he told the Wall Street Journal.

"The measures were adopted within the rule of law. Integration principles must work, but also public order must be respected in suburban settlements lacking sanitary or security conditions."

France began a high-profile campaign of clearing large numbers of illegal Roma camps last month as part of a security crackdown announced by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The expulsions of the Roma, mainly to Romania, have drawn criticism from the Vatican and the United Nations while Sarkozy has also faced dissent over the policy from within his own cabinet.

Under EU rules, the state can expel people who have been in the country for at least three months without a job or are a social burden.

They can also be expelled within three months of their arrival if they are deemed to be a threat to public security.

The European Commission is expected to decide on September 29 whether to launch infringement proceedings against France, which could lead to a case before the EU's highest court if Paris fails to comply with European laws.

© 2010 AFP

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