French PM scrambles to defuse halal-kosher row

PARIS - France's prime minister told Jewish leaders on Wednesday he had not meant to stigmatize their community when he urged them to rethink ancient dietary laws, as he strove to defuse a fractious row about minorities in the run up to a presidential election.
Prime Minister Francois Fillon caused an uproar on Tuesday when he said the Jewish and Muslim "ancestral traditions" of ritual slaughter were outdated and unjustified.
It was the latest in a series of divisive comments by politicians about the religious practices of France's ethnic minorities, seen as a bid to attract right-wing voters ahead of a two-round election in April and May.
French Grand Rabbi Gilles Bernheim and Paris Central Consistory President Joel Mergui said Fillon reassured them during a meeting in his office on Wednesday that he had not did not intend to abolish halal and kosher meat slaughter in France.
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