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French Lawmakers Vote to Outlaw Denials of Armenian Genocide

French lawmakers have approved a draft law making it a crime to deny that mass killings of Armenians in Turkey nearly a century ago were genocide. The vote prompted immediate criticism from Turkey and the European Union.

The measure passed by the lower house of the French parliament Thursday would impose jail terms and fines on those who deny the Armenian genocide.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry called the French action a "heavy blow" to bilateral relations. In Brussels, the European Commission said the vote could hinder efforts for dialogue needed for Turkey and Armenia to resolve the dispute.

Armenians say the Ottoman Turks slaughtered up to 1.5 million Armenians from 1915 to 1923, in a push to drive them out of eastern Turkey.

Turkey calls the figure exaggerated, and says a large number of people died in civil unrest during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

France's conservative government has called the opposition-sponsored draft unnecessary. The measure still needs the approval of the French Senate and President Jacques Chirac.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.