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Sarkozy Roma jibe ‘malevolent’: Luxembourg

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn on Wednesday told AFP that French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s suggestion his country host Romas was clearly “malevolent.”

And he added: “I know that Nicolas Sarkozy has problems with Luxembourgers, but he’s gone too far here.”

Sarkozy’s remark was levelled against the EU’s top justice official Viviane Reding, herself from Luxembourg, who on Tuesday criticised France’s expulsion of Roma.

French Senator Bruno Sido of Sarkozy’s UMP party reported Wednesday after lunching with the president that “France was irreproachable in the matter but that if the Luxembourgers want to take them he had no problem.”

Responding to the jibe, Asselborn said in a phone interview from Berlin that Reding was not talking as a Luxembourger but as EU Justice Commissioner.

“For Nicolas Sarkozy to amalgamate the commissioner’s nationality and Luxembourg is malevolent,” he said.

“She was not talking for Luxembourg and did not take instructions from Luxembourg.”

France has frequently criticised Luxembourg in recent years over its culture of banking secrecy, while Asselborn’s boss, Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, has complained privately that Sarkozy blocked his bid to become the first full-time president of the European Union last year.

Asselborn underlined that French counterpart Bernard Kouchner had called him to arrange clear-the-air talks on the margins of Thursday’s European Union summit.