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06 10 24 - U.S. Official Criticizes French Law

The Associated Press -Friday, October 20, 2006; 6:13 PM
BRUSSELS, Belgium -- A senior U.S. official denounced on Friday a French bill that would make it a crime to deny the killings of Armenians in Turkey during World War I was a genocide.
Turkey denies allegations that Turkey was responsible for the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians during the war, contending that many died as a result of fighting during the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried said the proposed law would hamper Turkish-Armenian dialogue and also does not help EU-Turkey relations. The bill was approved by lawmakers in France's lower house last week, but still needs approval from the French Senate and President Jacques Chirac to become law.
"The job of outsiders is to encourage Turkish-Armenian dialogue, not to take positions which make that dialogue harder," said Fried, who was in Brussels to discuss current tensions in the Caucuses with officials from NATO, the European Union and the Belgian government.
"This legislation criminalizing discussion doesn't seem to make any sense," Fried said. "We have certainly encouraged Armenians and Turks to look at this issue honestly and painfully. Every nation that I know of, including my own, has things in its past of which it is not proud."
Fried said the U.S. had dealt with such events in its own history in an "honest way" and encouraged Turkey to do the same. He said he did not think the French legislation would encourage this process.
Tensions between France and Turkey have escalated since last week's vote in favor of the bill. It sparked a boycott of French goods and a proposed blackout of French media by Turkish television stations.
The EU has taken the U.S. position in the matter, saying the French move discourages dialogue and hinders possible Turkish accession into the 25-member nation bloc.
Fried's visit comes one day after a stop in Tblisi to meet with Georgian officials and opposition party leaders. He is scheduled to travel to Russia to speak with leaders there as a prelude to November's NATO summit in Riga, Latvia.


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