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Last Updated: Monday, 16 February, 2004, 21:28 GMT
Chirac vow to fight anti-Semitism
Aftermath of attack on Jewish school in Paris suburb, November, 2003
The French government says anti-Semitic attacks have declined
French President Jacques Chirac has told the visiting Israeli president that France is making progress in its fight against anti-Semitism.

Israel has recently criticised France's attitude towards its own Jewish minority and the Middle East conflict.

But French leaders reject suggestions from leading Israelis that anti-Semitic attacks are on the rise in France.

President Moshe Katsav used the talks to thank Mr Chirac for his stance on what he said was a painful question.

Mr Chirac told a news conference: "I repeated to the president my determination without fail to fight all forms of racism and anti-Semitism.

"We are, and we will be, uncompromising on this question. That is why we do not accept groundless accusations that are sometimes made against us and which are an attack on France's honour."

...we do not accept groundless accusations that are sometimes made against us and which are an attack on France's honour
Jacques Chirac

The two nations hope the visit - the first by an Israeli head of state since 1988 - will bolster bilateral ties.

But the first night of the president's four-day visit also saw several hundred people protesting in Paris against Israel's controversial barrier in the West Bank.

France praised

The legality of the barrier is to be examined next week by the International Court of Justice in the Hague, but Israel is to boycott the hearings.

Mr Chirac has previously angered Israel by calling the construction "illegal".

Ahead of the visit, the Israeli ambassador in Paris had praised France's fight against anti-Semitism.

ANTI-SEMITIC ATTACKS
Jan-Aug 2002 - 647
Jan-Aug 2003 - 247
Source: French Interior Ministry

"The French government is the only government in Europe to really fight against - effectively, I hope - this phenomenon," ambassador Nissim Zvili told Europe 1 radio.

For their part, French leaders reject suggestions from leading Israeli figures that anti-Semitic attacks are on the rise in France.

They say that despite a number of high-profile cases last year, the actual number of attacks has gone down.

Mr Chirac's government has launched a campaign against anti-Semitism in the wake of an arson attack last November on a Jewish school in a Paris suburb.

The measures include a 4bn urban regeneration programme, to be targeted at predominantly Muslim areas of French cities, where there has been a sharp increase in anti-Jewish sentiment.


SEE ALSO:
France vows to fight hate crime
17 Nov 03  |  Europe
French rabbi attacked in street
19 Oct 03  |  Europe
Q&A: What is the West Bank barrier?
09 Feb 04  |  Middle East


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