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(AFP) - France's Armenian community said Friday it would appeal to President Jacques Chirac to prevent negotiations on Turkish membership of the European Union until Turkey acknowledged responsibility for the World War I massacre of Armenians.

The group's attorney Philippe Krikorian said it would lodge an appeal before the nation's highest administrative tribunal, the Council of State, requesting Chirac to oppose the start of such talks.

The subject of the Armenian massacre has remained a controversial one touching Turkish and Armenian sensitivities for nigh on nine decades, with Turkey consistently refusing to acknowledge that genocide had occurred in 1915-1917 when up to 1.5 million Armenians died.

Turkey says that between 250,000 and 500,000 Armenians and thousands of Turks were killed in civil strife during World War I, when the Armenians rose up against their Ottoman rulers. The French parliament passed legislation in 2001 stating that genocide had occurred, thereby causing hard feelings in relations with Turkey.

Organizations, which represent some 450,000 French citizens of Armenian origin, wished to protest against Chirac's "willingness not to subordinate the opening of negotiations to the prior admission of the Armenian genocide," said Krikorian.

Last month the European Commission recommended a start to membership negotiations with Turkey, which has been lobbying for many years to join the European Union. Jean-Pierre Berberian, spokesman of a Marseille-based Armenian group, noted that an EU summit would make the final decision in December on whether to start negotiations.

Fifty days ahead of that date, it was time to "denounce the violation by the French government of the terms of the resolution passed on June 18, 1987 by the European Parliament and of French legislation of January 2001 recognizing the genocide of 1915," said Berberian, spokesman of the Euro-Armenia group here, and a Marseille city councilor.

Chirac has indicated his support for a start to talks, but many in his ruling party, in the opposition and among the French public are against Turkey's EU membership.

"Not only is Jacques Chirac acting in violation of the law, he is doing so against the will of a majority of French who are opposed to Turkey's membership," said Berberian.

The text of the 2001 legislation passed by parliament here said France "publicly recognizes the Armenian genocide of 1915," but did not explicitly identify Turkey as responsible for the deed.
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