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French Politician Out Over Race Comments

The Associated Press
Saturday, January 27, 2007; 9:58 PM

PARIS -- France's Socialist Party on Saturday expelled a politician who said there were too many black players on the national soccer team, party officials said.

Georges Freche was quoted by Midi Libre newspaper in November as saying he was ashamed that as many as nine of 11 starters on the French team were black.

"It would be normal if there were three or four, that would be a reflection of society," Freche was quoted as saying. "But if there are so many, it's because whites are no good. I'm ashamed for this country."

President Jacques Chirac issued a stern condemnation, and several prominent Socialists, including the party's presidential candidate, Segolene Royal, demanded he quit the party.

Following the uproar, Freche, president of the southern Languedoc-Roussillon region, announced last week he was withdrawing from the party for three or four months to avoid hurting Royal's chances in upcoming presidential elections.

At a meeting Saturday in Paris, members of the Socialists' national conflict commission voted unanimously to expel Freche, whose comments they judged "incompatible with the values of equality and the respect for human rights," the party said in a statement.

Royal, speaking last week on Canal Plus television, called Freche's remarks "unacceptable and humiliating" and said she hoped he would be expelled. She declined to comment Saturday, saying only that she had "taken note" of the decision.

In a separate incident last year, the Socialist party suspended Freche following incendiary remarks about "harkis" _ Algerians who backed colonial master France during the North African country's long, bloody war for independence.

At a February 2006 meeting, the politician lashed out at the head of a harki group in the southeastern city of Montpellier, shouting: "You all are sub-men! You all have no honor!"

He later apologized, saying he was referring to a single person, not an entire community. Harkis were branded traitors in Algeria and have suffered from discrimination in France, their adopted home since the end of the war in 1962.

A court convicted Freche this past week over the remarks about the Algerians, fining him $19,000 for racial abuse. The politician's lawyer said he would appeal.


© 2007 The Associated Press