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Germany denies Gypsy crackdown plan

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has denied that she had told French President Nicolas Sarkozy her country planned to evacuate its own illegal immigrant camps.

Mr Sarkozy, who has drawn widespread international condemnation for ordering the clearing out of some 100 illegal immigrant camps, many inhabited by Gypsies, told reporters after the European Union summit on Thursday that Germany planned similar action.

"Madame Merkel indicated to me her will to proceed in the coming weeks with the evacuation of camps. We will see at that point the calm that reigns in German political life," he said.

Mrs Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said the issue did not play any role in the leaders' discussions. He added that the situation of Gypsies, also known as Roma, in Germany cannot be compared with France.

"We do not have camps like that," Mr Seibert said at a regularly scheduled news conference. "It was not a topic."

Mr Seibert said Mrs Merkel had not talked either at the EU summit or in conversation with Mr Sarkozy in Brussels "about putative Roma camps in Germany, not to mention their being cleared".

Debate over France's Roma expulsions dominated the EU summit.

In recent weeks, French authorities have moved in and dismantled the camps, which Mr Sarkozy says are havens of crime and squalor. More than 1,000 Roma have been deported from France, mainly back to Romania.

Mr Seibert refused to respond on how the comments had originated or what was behind them, warning that they should not be taken out of proportion.

"We should not blow this up into a strain on French-German relations," Mr Seibert said.

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