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French Parliament to Vote on Armenian Genocide Legislation


French deputies vote Thursday on an Armenian genocide bill that has sparked warnings of economic sanctions from Turkey and concern from Brussels.

The draft legislation would make it a crime to deny that Armenians were victims of genocide in Turkey during World War I. Armenians claim that up to 1.5 million of them were victims of orchestrated killings by Turkey between 1915 and 1917.

In 2001, France passed a bill recognizing the killings as a genocide. But Armenians living in France - including this regional representative - say that is not enough.

Speaking on French radio recently, the representative said French Armenians have been fighting since 2001 to improve the law to sanction those who deny the Armenian genocide. He accused Turkey of mounting a large campaign against the issue, as part of its efforts to join the European Union.

Turkey is indeed displeased with the French legislation. Ankara has threatened to block French companies from investing in Turkey, among other economic sanctions. Ankara argues that only 300 Armenians died - as did just as many Turks - during civil strife nearly a century ago, when Armenians fought for independence in the eastern Anatolia region.

The French vote also poses another obstacle to Turkey's efforts to join the European Union. The Reuters news agency reported Monday that the EU's enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn warned Paris against passing the bill.

France's conservative government has also called the bill unecessary - the legislation was sponsored by the opposition Socialists. It would still have to be passed by the French Senate and approved by French President Jacques Chirac before it becomes law.

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