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Europe

Chirac to Sharon: "You Are Not Welcome in France"

Franco-Israeli relations hit new lows Monday as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was told he was no longer welcome in Paris.

According to media reports, French diplomats told their Israeli counterparts that before being welcome in Paris, Sharon would have to explain recent comments made over the weekend that French Jews should emigrate to Israel to evade anti-Semitism. Israeli television cited Chirac as saying, "you are not welcome after your comments,." A spokeswoman for the French government said, according to agency reports, "a possible visit by the Israeli prime minister to Paris, for which no date has been set, will be examined only when the explanations called for have been provided".

For its part, Israel played down the spat, describing it as a "misunderstanding". However, Ha'aretz newspaper quoted Sharon's office as saying, "The prime minister reiterates there is anti-Semitism in France, and despite the serious measures the French government is taking, he urges French Jews to immigrate to Israel -- just as he urges all Jews worldwide to immigrate to Israel." Sharon's comments were roundly condemned by Jewish groups throughout France as, in the words of one Jewish leader, "pouring oil on the fire." The number of anti-Semitic events in France has risen sharply in the first half of this year. (EUobserver.com)

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