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The BBC's Jim Fish
"The crowd of about 200 students vented their fury"
 real 28k

The BBC's Paul Adams in Jerusalem
"Mr Jospin found himself the target of an angry protest"
 real 28k

The BBC's Stephen Jessel in Paris
"His remarks caused an uproar not only in Israel, but also at home in France"
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Sunday, 27 February, 2000, 05:49 GMT
French PM lashed over 'blunder'

Car surrounded
Security men and protesters surrounded Jospin's car


French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin has been sharply rebuked by President Jacques Chirac after cutting short a visit to Israel amid an outcry over remarks that caused fury in the Arab world.


The head of state reaffirmed the constancy of French foreign policy and the balanced approach of our country in the Middle East
Presidential spokeswoman Catherine Colonna
Mr Jospin received a cut to the head during a demonstration on Saturday in the West Bank against his comments that Hezbollah fighters in south Lebanon had committed "terrorist acts."

Mr Chirac summoned him to explain his remarks, which were in apparent contradiction of French foreign policy - regarded as the prerogative of the president.

Jospin was bundled into the car by security men Jospin was bundled away by security men
Mr Jospin received his dressing down on diplomacy in a telephone call soon after he touched down in Paris.

Mr Chirac said France's credibility could be damaged if its "impartiality" in the Middle East was undermined.

The left-wing newspaper Liberation criticised Mr Jospin for a "blunder" that it said had caused "considerable damage". The populist Le Parisien accused the prime minister of "provocation".

Arab anger

His comments on Thursday seemed to unilaterally tilt French policy away from its traditional sympathy for the Arabs towards Israel.

Mr Jospin said: "France condemns Hezbollah's attacks, and all types of terrorist attacks which may be carried out against soldiers or possibly Israel's civilian population."

The BBC's Stephen Jessel in Paris says the incident has created one of the most serious crises since Mr Chirac and Mr Jospin have shared power, in the arrangement known in France as "cohabitation" - when the president and prime minister belong to different political families.

Mr Jospin's comments also angered Lebanon and the Arab world.

Pelted with stones

During his speech on Saturday at Bir Zeit University, in the West Bank town of Ramallah, Mr Jospin tried to clarify the statements he made two days earlier.

Mr Jospin's getaway car The students called Mr Jospin 'a traitor'
Mr Jospin told the students: "We condemn Israeli attacks against civilians in Lebanon."

He also repeated France's support for a Palestinian state. "A Palestinian state is necessary for peace," he declared.

But his measured statements did little to calm the angry students who hurled stones at him after the speech.

Middle East
Even inside the armour-plated car Mr Jospin was not spared the anger of the students.

They kicked the back and sides of the car, and one student was seen trying to force open the door nearest to the French prime minister, as others rained more stones on the vehicle.

Some of the students jumped on top of the car.

Palestinian security officials and Mr Jospin's bodyguards shouted and tried frantically to protect Mr Jospin. He was reported to be lightly injured.

The university authorities condemned the incident and closed the university until Tuesday, in an attempt to restore calm.

The Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, later spoke to Mr Jospin by telephone and expressed regret over the students' behaviour.

"I apologise to you sir, and I hope that you can accept this apology from me and the Palestinian people," he said.

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See also:
26 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Picture gallery: Jospin pelted
25 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Hezbollah labels Jospin a 'racist'
08 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Analysis: Gloves off in Lebanon
26 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Angry Palestinians stone French PM
27 Feb 00 |  Europe
Analysis: French power-sharing row

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