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Saturday, February 20, 1999 Published at 01:05 GMT

World: Europe

Heard the one about Ted Turner ...

But would the Pope have liked the joke ?

Poland is demanding a full apology from the American media magnate Ted Turner for telling a "Polish joke" at a function in Washington.

James Coomarasamy: Lucrative contracts may be broken
Deputy Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski described the joke as racist and said Mr Turner, vice-chairman of Time Warner, must apologise within a week or the government would withdraw funding from a special Time magazine edition on Poland in April.

Mr Turner made his joke during a speech to the National Family Planning and Reproductive Association in Washington.

When a member of the audience asked him what he would say if he ever met the Pope, himself a Pole, Mr Turner said: "Ever seen a Polish mine-detector?" and pointed at his foot.

Jokes casting doubt on the intelligence of Poles are common in certain parts of the United States.

"Regret" not enough

"This is racism and bigotry. Would Turner make the same sort of joke about other minorities, such as blacks, homosexuals or Jews?" asked the Polish deputy foreign minister.

Mr Turner, the founder of CNN television, sent an apology to the Polish Foreign Ministry in which he regretted any offence his comments had caused, but the government is not satisfied.

The Polish news agency says the dispute could result in the withdrawal of a special feature on Poland from the April edition of Time magazine.

"If Turner believes the Poles are yokels maybe he can do without Polish taxpayer's money," Mr Sikorski said.

He described the joke as an insult to Polish war veterans and said that if a fuller apology did not arrive within a week, Poland would consider breaking lucrative contracts with Time Warner.

This is not the first time the media mogul has got into trouble for making controversial comments.

In 1990, Mr Turner had to apologise in church for saying that Christianity was for losers.

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