Turkey slams France over Armenian 'genocide' bill 

Turkey warned the French president on Tuesday against signing a law that makes it a crime to deny that the killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks nearly a century ago constituted genocide, saying it will implement unspecified new measures against France.

France's parliament approved the bill late Monday, risking more sanctions from Turkey and complicating an already delicate relationship with the rising power. Turkey, which sees the allegations of genocide as a threat to its national honor, has already suspended military, economic and political ties and briefly recalled its ambassador last month when the lower house of parliament approved the same bill.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry on Tuesday strongly condemned the decision, and called it an example of irresponsibility. It said the law should not be finalized to "avoid this being recorded as part of France's political, legal and moral mistakes."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose party supported the bill, needs to sign it into law, but that is largely considered a formality.

"We find it useful to remind all parties that, in case of the completion of the finalization process for the law, we will not hesitate to implement, as we deem appropriate, the measures that we have considered in advance," Turkey's Foreign Ministry said. "Similarly, it must be also known that we will continue to strongly use our right to defend ourselves on a legitimate basis against unfair allegations."

The debate surrounding the measure comes in the highly charged run-up to France's presidential elections this spring, and critics have called the move a ploy by Sarkozy to garner the votes of the some 500,000 Armenians who live in France.

"It is further unfortunate that the historical and multi-dimensional relations between the Republic of Turkey and France have been sacrificed to considerations of political agenda," Turkey said. "It is quite clear where the responsibility for this lies."

France's relations with Turkey are already strained, in large part because Sarkozy opposes Turkey's entry into the European Union. The law is likely to further sour relations with a NATO member that is playing an increasingly important role in the international community's response to the violence in Syria, the standoff over Iran's nuclear program and peace negotiations in the Middle East.

The Senate voted 127 to 86 to pass the bill late Monday. Twenty-four people abstained. The measure sets a punishment of up to one year in prison and a fine of €45,000 ($59,000) for those who deny or "outrageously minimize" the killings.

For some in France, the bill is part of a tradition of legislation in some European countries, born of the agonies of the Holocaust, that criminalizes the denial of genocides. Denying the Holocaust is already a punishable crime in France.

Most historians contend that the 1915 killings of 1.5 million Armenians as the Ottoman Empire broke up was the 20th century's first genocide, and several European countries recognize the massacres as such. Switzerland has convicted people of racism for denying the genocide.

But Turkey says that there was no systematic campaign to kill Armenians and that many Turks also died during the chaotic disintegration of the empire. It also says that death toll is inflated.

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Associated Press writer Sarah DiLorenzo in Paris contributed.

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