Paris: France`s Interior Minister, one of President Nicolas Sarkozy`s closest allies, faced calls for his resignation on Friday after he was caught on camera making remarks denounced by critics as anti-Arab.
"The French cannot accept that a minister speaks in such a manner," said opposition Socialist leader Martine Aubry in a statement that called for Brice Hortefeux to resign from the job he took up just three months ago.
Hortefeux, a former immigration minister, insisted the comments he was heard making in a short video that has become an online hit were not racist and were taken out of context.
But a range of opposition politicians and anti-racist groups lined up to condemn remarks they say will damage race relations in a country where tensions between police and youths of immigrant origin sometimes end in violence.
Hortefeux is heard saying on the video first posted yesterday on Le Monde newspaper`s website: "There always has to be one. When there`s one, it`s OK."
"It`s when there are a lot of them that there are problems," he said in the film that Le Monde said shows him getting ready to pose for a photo with a young man from France`s large community of Arab origin.
The young man, referred to as Amine, is seen in the middle of a small group of laughing and joking activists from Sarkozy`s UMP party at the party`s summer gathering in Seignosse in southwest France on September 5.