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Germany Denies Plan to Expel Roma


Germany has denied French President Nicolas Sarkozy's claim that Germany plans to dismantle its Roma camps. The differing versions surfaced in the middle of European diplomatic tensions over France's deportation of its Roma population.

A European Union summit this week has been dominated by France's recent expulsion of over 1,000 Roma.

On Friday, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said a conversation about Germany's Roma never took place between Mr. Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

He said Mr. Sarkozy's comments must have been the result of a misunderstanding.

That is in stark contrast to what Mr. Sarkozy said on Thursday.

He said Ms. Merkel had indicated to him that Germany planned to evacuate its own illegal camps in the coming weeks.

It appears to be a further disagreement in a situation that has raised tempers on many sides.

Since August, France has deported over 1,000 Roma and closed around 100 illegal camps where many Roma had been living. Paris says it is a security measure to deal with crime.

But the European Parliament has called on France to end the deportations. And earlier this week, the European Union's Justice Commissioner made a severe rebuke of the French policy. Speaking Tuesday, Viviane Reding said she thought Europe would not witness such a situation after the Second World War.

On Thursday Mr. Sarkozy said her comments were "outrageous."

He said they were deeply hurtful to the French people.

Reding has since apologized for how her comments were interpreted. But she says the Roma expulsion may break European Union law by targeting a group on an ethnic basis.

France maintains that Roma have been deported on a case by case basis. Roma have been given financial compensation and the French government says they have left the country voluntarily.

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