17 SEP 2010
By Valentina Pop
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - An infuriated, defensive Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, on Thursday (16 September) played down a "violent" clash with European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso over the issue of Roma expulsions during an EU summit, with his shouting reportedly heard at the other end of the corridor.
"If there was one person in the room that remained calm, it was me," Mr Sarkozy later claimed during a press briefing, denying reports from officials that his exchange with Mr Barroso had been "violent."
According to EU sources, Mr Sarkozy's "yelling" during the EU leaders' meeting was widely heard as he attempted to, in his words, "defend the honour of France."
Speaking in front of cameras, Mr Sarkozy blamed justice commissioner Viviane Reding and her "deeply shocking" and "insulting" comments made on Tuesday that likened his Roma deportation policy to that of France's pro-Nazi regime in the Second World War.
He denied having "any problem" with Mr Barroso, but in the same breath reminded the Portuguese politician that he had last year supported him in his efforts to win a second term as chief of the EU commission.
"I appreciated the fact that Mr Barroso distanced himself from Ms Reding, but I am the president and cannot allow my country to be insulted."
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