Excerpt:

President Nicolas Sarkozy visited Paris's main mosque Wednesday, a week after a row over halal meat led France's Muslims and Jews to complain they were being used as pawns in the presidential election.

Sarkozy met the mosque's rector and the French Muslim Council leader and said he told them "he did not want, in this electoral period, some of our compatriots to feel hurt by controversies that have no place here".

"I wanted to say... to our compatriots of the Muslim religion that they naturally have the right to follow their faith as any other citizen has the right to follow his religion," he told reporters.


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