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Europe

No new French Armenian genocide law before June

media Turkish nationalists demonstrate against Armenia in Istanbul earlier this … Reuters/Osman Orsal

There will be no new French law on Turkey’s alleged genocide of Armenians until after France’s presidential election, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s party announced Wednesday. France’s Armenian lobby group has demanded that candidates promise to redraft the bill after it was declared unconstitutional.

No sooner had the Constitutional Council declared that the bill contradicted the legal right to free speech, than Sarkozy vowed to produce a new draft.

But the head of his party, the UMP, on Wednesday explained that it could not be debated before June.

"The problem is that unfortunately parliament's work has finished and we can't put this bill on the agenda," François Copé told journalists. "We will have to wait for the next parliament."

Government spokesperson Valérie Pécresse also said that it would not be possible to adopt a new law until the election is over.

Ministers are examining how to draw up a new law that the council would accept, she said, adding that Sarkozy will soon meet leaders of Armenian groups in France.

The Coordinating Council of Armenian Organisations in France (CCAF) slammed the Constitutional Council’s ruling as “iniquitous and purely political” on Wednesday, accusing it of “capitulating to Turkish interference” and challenging the impartiality of some of its members.

Claming that both Sarkozy and his main challenger François Hollande have publicly supported the law, the CCAF called on the UMP and Hollande's Socialist Party to nail their colours to the mast.

Several senators from both parties appealed to the Constitutional Council against the bill.

Hollande has promised to take up the question in a conciliatory fashion, assuring France's Turkish-origin community that the bill was not directed at them.

Turkey, on the other hand, was delighted, although it warned Sarkozy not to “try his luck” with a redraft.

“Before he declared war on the freedom of opinion and history,” Turkish foreign affairs minister Ahmet Davutoglu told state-owned broadcaster TRT. “Now he will have declared open warfare on the Constitutional Council.”

The limited sanctions Turkey took against France after MPs voted for the bill will be lifted, Davutoglu said.

The ruling has reopened the debate over whether France's law on denying the historical truth of the Nazi genocide of the Jews is constitutional and a limit on freedom of speech.

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