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Turkey protests French genocide vote

PARIS, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- Turkey says it has recalled its ambassador from Paris to protest a French bill making it illegal to publicly deny the mass genocide of Armenians (1915-17).

The measure, passed by France's lower house of Parliament Thursday, would stipulate anyone denying the genocide, in which as many as 1.5 million Armenians were killed by the Ottoman Empire, could face a possible year in jail and a nearly $58,000 fine, Radio France Internationale reported.

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The draft law will now be considered by the Senate and parliamentary committees, and may be enacted early next year, RFI said.

As many as 500,000 Armenians live in France and many of their families emigrated just after the massacre.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Saturday the law would "irreparably" damage relations between the two countries. Erdogan called the measure politically motivated, saying French President Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling UMP party, which controls the National Assembly, is pressing for passage to try to win the Franco-Armenian vote.

Tayyip is expected to announce further measures or sanctions in response to the vote on Friday, RFI reported.

Ara Toranian, co-president of the Council of Armenian Organizations in France, said the draft law would apply a European anti-racism directive to French law.

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Holocaust denial is illegal in France and considered a form of anti-Semitism.

Engin Solakoglu, a spokesman for the Turkish ambassador to France, told France 24 the measure was an "electoral tactic."

"This bill has nothing to do with history and it is not the job of parliaments to write history into law like this," he said. "It is also harmful to freedom of expression."

Dorothee Schmid, who runs the contemporary Turkey program at France's Foreign Relations Institute, pointed to possible economic sanctions.

If the draft law passes, she predicted, France would be excluded from Turkish public procurements and French products would be boycotted.

She also said French diplomats and the French community in Turkey are concerned the law would result in violence against French citizens living in Turkey.

France recognized the massacre as genocide in 2001.

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