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Sharon Accuses France Of 'pro-arab' Policies

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Sharon Accuses France of 'Pro-Arab' Policies

Wed Feb 23, 2005 02:57 PM ET



JERUSALEM (Reuters) - israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon criticized France Wednesday for balking at a U.S.-backed proposal to declare Hizbollah a terrorist group.

"The French are pro-Arab," Sharon said in an interview aired on israel's Channel 2 television.


"One of the strangest things is that France is not ready at all to define Hizbollah as a terrorist organization when it is one of the most dangerous around," Sharon added, referring to the Iranian-backed Lebanese militant group.


israel accuses Hizbollah -- the main force in ending israel's 22-year occupation of south Lebanon in 200 -- of supporting Palestinian militants in a threat to a Feb. 8 truce declared by israel and the Palestinians at a summit in Egypt.


Both israel and the U.S. have pressed the European Union to add the group to its list of outlawed terrorist organizations, but Europeans have balked so far.


But after a meeting on Feb. 14 with israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, French President Jacques Chirac said in Paris the issue was "complex and had to be examined within the regional context in every aspect, especially in relation to Lebanon."


israel and France have had a history of rocky ties since the 1967 Middle East War that led France, formerly israel's chief arms supplier, to impose an arms embargo until the 1980s.


The strains surfaced again late last year, after Sharon aroused anger by calling on French Jews in July to emigrate to israel to escape what he called "the wildest anti-Semitism."


Sharon later eased tensions by praising France's efforts to combat anti-Semitism.


But in December, France's ambassador to israel Gerard Araud accused israelis in a radio interview of showing an "anti-French neurosis," a remark which the israeli Foreign Ministry denounced as "unacceptable."


© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.


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