Kouchner: I almost quit over Roma deportations
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Monday he thought about resigning because of the controversy over the French government's deportation of ethnic Roma, DPA reported.
After declaring that the Roma lived in very difficult conditions and that their situation made his heart bleed, Kouchner told RTL radio, "What could I do to remedy that? By resigning, I thought."
He said he spoke to President Nicolas Sarkozy about stepping down, and decided to remain in his post.
"It's important to carry on," he said. "To leave is to desert, to accept (the status quo)."
France has been accused of racism since starting to dismantle Gypsy camps and repatriate the Roma living there to Romania and Bulgaria with the help of a 300-euro (385-dollar) payout.
Kouchner said the passionate debate provoked by the government's expulsion policy troubled him.
"I am not happy with this controversy, with this type of verbal mayonnaise," he said, describing criticism of the policy by a United Nations-backed committee of experts on racial discrimination as "excessive."
On Friday, while addressing French ambassadors, Kouchner firmly supported Sarkozy's policy on the deportations of Roma.
A founder of the renowned medical charity Doctors Without Borders, Kouchner has long been regarded a highly respected human rights activist.