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French Foreign Ministry Probes Fake Website

PARIS - The French foreign ministry said Thursday it was considering taking legal action after a mystery group launched an online copy of its official website carrying fake news.

The site at www.diplomatiegov.fr is a close copy of the ministry's own at www.diplomatie.gouv.fr and includes accurate links and pirated versions of real videos and news releases from Bernard Kouchner's ministry.

There is also a video in which a woman masquerading as a ministry spokeswoman says Paris will repay the 90 million gold francs that Haiti paid France between 1825 and 1947 in reparations after fighting for independence.

An accompanying press release, formatted to match a genuine statement but sent from a non-official gmail account, said "including adjustments for inflation and a minimal interest rate of five percent per annum, this sum is today valued at 17 billion euros (21 billion dollars)."

France has no plans to repay Haiti this sum, and a foreign ministry spokesman confirmed that the press release, video and website were all fake.

"This Internet site ... broadcasts false news and fraudulently copies the foreign ministry site," said spokesman Bernard Valero. "We are studying what legal steps we can take to remedy this situation."

A telephone number on the fake press release was unattributed and AFP received no immediate reply from the email address used by its sender.

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