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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 October, 2003, 14:29 GMT 15:29 UK
French rabbi attacked in street
An attack on a rabbi in the Parisian suburbs has been strongly condemned by the French prime minister.

The government was determined to fight anti-Semitism and religious intolerance, said Jean-Pierre Raffarin.

Several men pushed the rabbi about and one allegedly punched him in the face in Friday's attack in the Essonne area.

Police are holding two men in their 20s over the assault which comes after a string of anti-Semitic attacks on individuals, synagogues and cemeteries.

Rabbi Michel Serfaty was on his way to the Ris-Orangis synagogue when several people began haranguing him, the shoving him about, French TV reported on Sunday.

One of the attackers reportedly got out of his car and punched the rabbi in the face.

Correspondents report that a recent increase in anti-Semitic attacks in France is in part connected to violence in the Middle East.

With Europe's largest Arab and Jewish communities, France is ever sensitive to the possibility of violence far away being reflected close to home.

Chirac row

French President Jacques Chirac has came under fire from the Israeli press for reportedly blocking a statement at last week's EU summit in Brussels condemning a speech about Jews by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed.

The French president is said to have opposed including condemnation in the summit's closing declaration on the grounds that it was not the appropriate place for it.

The decision prompted leading Israeli daily Maariv to dub him "The Face of French Anti-Semitism".

Dr Mahathir's speech, in which he told leaders of Muslim states that "Jews run" the world, was widely condemned in the West, and in particular by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on behalf of the EU.

A spokeswoman for the French president has stressed that Mr Chirac also condemned the speech but felt it was more proper for an EU spokesman to make the condemnation than for it to be included in a summit declaration.

Malaysia defends speech on Jews
17 Oct 03  |  Asia-Pacific


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