France says wants to avoid immigration row with Italy

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France's interior minister insisted Monday that Paris wanted to avoid tensions with Rome over migration after a spat over an influx of Tunisians and pledged to respect a treaty on visa-free movement.

Claude Gueant said a move to grant temporary residence permits to more than 20,000 migrants from Tunisia, who have been arriving on Italian shores since January's revolution, had been contested by lots of European Union states.

"But we accepted this arrangement. There are however conditions", he added, referring to checks on the financial resources of migrants.

Asked by AFP about tensions between the two countries, Gueant said: "France does not want that at all."

French authorities on Sunday blocked trains coming from the Italian border town of Ventimiglia to block a pro-immigrant protest.

The government in Rome says the permits allow the mainly French-speaking migrants to travel to France where many of them have friends and relatives. The French government has said it will turn the migrants back.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said in an interview with La Republicca on Monday that despite their different handling of the Tunisian immigrants, the two governments would "work together" to clear the cloud hanging over their relations.

© 2011 AFP

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