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'Most thefts done by Roma', says Bossi

League leader joins row after Berlusconi backs French expulsions

16 September, 14:36
'Most thefts done by Roma', says Bossi (ANSA) - Rome, September 16 - Northern League leader Umberto Bossi stomped into the row over France's Gypsy expulsions Thursday, backing French President Nicolas Sarkozy's controversial policy on the grounds that ''most thefts are done by Roma''.

''Yes, Sarkozy is doing the right thing with the expulsions,'' said the outspoken head of the regionalist party that frequently assumes extreme stances on immigration and is the junior partner in Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right government.

''Most thefts are done by Roma. Naturally they are not the devil, but working people come home and find it ransacked and that's no fun''.

The comments come after Berlusconi threw his weight behind Sarkozy following a reprimand from European Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, who compared the policy of sending Roma migrants back to Romania and Bulgaria to the Nazi Holocaust. ''Reding would have done better to discuss this subject in private with French officials'' Berlusconi said. ''The Roma problem is not specific to France. It concerns all Europe''.

Sarkozy had already returned fire on Reding Wednesday, saying her home nation Luxembourg should take in the Roma to solve the problem if she did not like his approach.

Reding subsequently said she regretted the way her comments had been interpreted, but she won the backing of European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and the row threatens to overshadow Thursday's summit of EU leaders in Brussels.

The Commission says the policy, which has been blasted by human rights groups, the Catholic Church and even members of Sarkozy's government, breaks European law on free movement of people.

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