Wednesday, September 12, 2007

AP: Discrimination body to probe remarks Romanian President made about Armenians

BUCHAREST, Romania: Romania's anti-discrimination organization said Tuesday it would investigate remarks made by President Traian Basescu to determine whether can be considered defamatory to the Armenian community.

Basescu who underwent surgery at the weekend on his thyroid gland on Sunday thanked doctors at a Bucharest hospital, especially the surgeon saying: "At last I see a kind Armenian, a competent Armenian."

His remarks were apparently directed at a political rival, Economy Minister Varujan Vosganian, who is an ethnic Armenian and a member of the governing Liberal Party. Vosganian accused Basescu of being blinded by petty political squabbles and called him "a risk for democracy."

Romania's politicians from all parties have been embroiled in bitter political disputes for years, especially with the popular president, after no party managed to secure a majority in 2004 parliamentary elections.

Basescu's office said Tuesday that his remarks had intended to highlight the professionalism of the surgeon who operated on him. "The head of state expresses his appreciation and recognition for the extraordinary contribution that the Armenian community has for years in the cultural and scientific life of Romania," said Basescu's spokesman Valeriu Turcan in a statement.

Romania has a few thousand ethnic Armenians who emigrated to Romania 1,000 years ago and are well integrated into society.

In May, Basescu was criticized after he called a reporter "a stinky Gypsy." The National Council for the Fight Against Discrimination can rule whether Basescu's remarks amounted to incitement to ethnic hatred or discrimination

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