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France dubs Abbas's remarks about Jews 'unfortunate'

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Fuente: Reuters.

France has joined international condemnation of remarks by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in which he linked anti-Semitic persecution to usury and banking.

"France shares the emotion aroused by President Abbas's words," a French foreign affairs ministry spokesperson said on Thursday. "We deplore them and consider them to be false, unfortunate and inopportune."

At a rare meeting of the Palestinian National Council on Monday night, the 82-year-old leader said that anti-Semitism in Europe was caused by Jews' involvement with banking and usury rather than their religion.

"From the 11th century until the Holocaust that took place in Germany, those Jews who moved to western and eastern Europe were subjected to a massacre every 10 to 15 years. But why did this happen? They say 'it is because we are Jews'," Abbas told the meeting of hundreds of delegates in Ramallah.

He then cited "three books" written by Jews as evidence that "hostility against Jews is not because of their religion but rather their social function ... related to banks and interest".

Jews in Arab countries had not faced similar persecution, he argued.

He also dubbed Israel a "colonial" project, encouraged by Europeans who wanted to get rid of their Jewish populations.

Netanyahu attacks "severe anti-Semtism"

"Apparently the Holocaust denier is still a Holocaust denier," Netanyahu said, calling on the international community to condemn Abbas's "severe anti-Semitism".

The US, the European Union and the UN all quickly condemned the Palestinian leader's remarks.

"Such rhetoric will only play into the hands of those who do not want a two-state solution, which President Abbas has repeatedly advocated," a spokesman for the EU's diplomatic service said in a statement.

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said Wednesday he was "shocked" at an "attack orchestrated by Israel around the world to accuse president Abbas of anti-Semitism".