French politicians pass Armenian genocide bill

France's lower house on Thursday approved a bill making it a crime to deny the mass killing of Armenians in Turkey during the First World War was a genocide.

France's lower house on Thursday approved a bill making it a crime to deny the mass killing of Armenians in Turkey during the First World War was agenocide.

The bill passed by a 106-19 vote, although a majority of the 557 lawmakers in France's lower house didn't show up for the vote.

President Jacques Chirac's government opposed the bill, which was introduced by the opposition Socialists, but didn't use its majority to vote it down.

Turkey reacted angrily to the vote, even though it's unlikely Chirac's government will forward the bill to the country's Senate for ratification. The Turkish Foreign Ministry warned it could harm relations between the two NATO allies.

"No one should harbour the conviction that Turkey will take this lightly," Turkey's Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said.

In Ankara, Turks pelted the French embassy with eggs and called for the boycott of French products.

An estimated 1.5 million Armenians died in eastern Turkey during and after the First World War. The Armenians believe their people were systematically killedin a bid to extinquish the population.

Turkey denies the claim and insists the death toll has been inflated. It argues the Armenian deaths were the result of an uprising of Armenian militants.

France'sArmenian community of roughly 500,000 had pushed for the passage of the bill, which would set a one-year prison term and a fine of about $64,000for anyone found guilty of denying the genocide. France has the same fine for denying the Holocaust.

The vote on the bill in Paris dominated front pages of most Turkish newspapers, with some reporting that thousands of Turks have promised to go to France and deny the genocide in hopes of getting arrested if the bill passes. Two TV networks in Turkey broadcast the parliamentary floor debate live.

In 2001, France passed legislation recognizing the Armenian deaths as genocide and in 2004, Canada's Parliament followed suit, voting to acknowledge the Armenian genocide.

In 2000, the U.S. dropped a similar resolution after the White House warned it could hurt U.S. security interests.

With files from the Associated Press