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Kouchner says unaware of Sarkozy-Merkel Roma discussion

17 September 2010, 11:49 CET
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(PARIS) - France's foreign minister said Friday he did not know whether President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel talked about the Roma at the EU summit, amid a row over the leaders' discussion.

The spat erupted after Sarkozy claimed that Merkel had told him on Thursday that Germany planned also to clear Roma camps, as France has been doing, despite growing international criticism of French policy against the minority.

Merkel's office swiftly denied she had ever mentioned the Roma in talks with Sarkozy, and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on Wednesday tried to play down the dispute as a misunderstanding.

Asked about who was telling the truth, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told Europe 1 radio: "History will decide. I was there all the time and I didn't take part" in a discussion on the Roma.

"The president didn't tell me anything in particular on the matter. I don't know if this (exchange between Sarkozy and Merkel) happened in private," Kouchner said.

Merkel had initially offered support for Sarkozy, describing a parallel made by EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding of the deportation of Roma from France with the Holocaust as "unfortunate."

Kouchner confirmed that Sarkozy had had a "lively" discussion at the Brussels summit with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, after Reding threatened legal action over France's Roma expulsions.

"This happens often in politics. Also in Europe. It's not a major incident, they know each other very well, and they've worked a lot together, Barroso and Sarkozy," Kouchner said.

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