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'Tie EU aid to rights for Christians' says Frattini

Aid should be 'cut or eliminated' FM says after Alexandria blast

03 January, 12:15
'Tie EU aid to rights for Christians' says Frattini (ANSA) - Rome, January 3 - European Union aid should be tied to respect for human rights in countries where Christian minorities are under attack, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Monday after a New Year's Day church bombing in the Egyptian city of Alexandria that killed 21 Coptic Christians.

EU aid "should be reduced if not eliminated" for "those countries that do not collaborate" in protecting Christians, Frattini said.

"We have to move from monitoring to action," said the foreign minister, stressing that Italy could not remain "isolated" in the battle for Christians' rights around the world.

The EU "should work with those countries that collaborate and encourage them," he said.

Italy has been saying for months that more should be done to help embattled Christian communities around the world.

On December 22 Frattini blasted the European Union for not doing more to combat Christian persecutions in Iraq and other Middle Eastern Countries.

He said United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is also worried about the plight of Middle Eastern Christians, who are leaving the region in increasing numbers, especially from Iraq, where they have been the victims of a series of bomb attacks.

''Frankly, it is a little sad that Europe isn't reacting on this issue as it should'', he said.

Italy is set to present a resolution to the United Nations on religious freedom which aims to stop this persecution and it has the backing of the EU, while several non-EU countries have expressed ''great interest''.

Pope Benedict XVI, who condemned the New Year's Day attack in Alexandria as a "cowardly attack against God," has said Christians are the religious group that suffer most persecution around the world.

Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Zimbabwe and Nigeria are among the other countries where there have been anti-Christian campaigns and attacks. More than 80 people were killed in bombings in the central Nigerian city of Jos on Christmas Eve, sparking clashes between Muslim and Christian youths.

Ethnic and religious violence in central Nigeria has left hundreds of people dead this year.

photo: woman outside Alexandria church on New Year's Day