A Disassociated Press Report, Washington, D.C., May 27, 2005
By Melody Ormus
U.S. President George W. Bush called on France today to cooperate with American efforts to locate and arrest members of the Priory of Sion, a secret society officially listed by the U.S. as a terrorist organization. The call came during an address the president delivered before the National Guard convention.
"We know that the organization has deep roots in France, and we have reason to believe that officials in the French government have maintained contact with Priory leaders over the years," Bush said. "This is unacceptable, and we believe it's time the French came clean."
The Priory of Sion has recently come into the limelight because of the popular novel The Da Vinci Code by author Dan Brown. The organization is believed to have existed at least since medieval times. Others, however, doubt the Priory of Sion's real existence.
The president had indicated only last week the Priory of Sion would be added to the terrorist list. He cited the Priory's history of violence and instances of defacement of important works of art by Priory operatives. The president's remarks today indicated the seriousness with which the Administration now takes the Priory threat.
"It is simply unbelievable that our long-standing allies in France would willingly harbor this terrorist group," he said. "That's why I'm asking them to do everything they can as quickly as they can."
The president referred also to the famous Leonardo Da Vinci painting the Mona Lisa, which hangs in the Louvre museum in Paris.
"Don't they know what's been done to that masterpiece?" he asked at one point. "The Mona Lisa they have there is a Priory fake. Can't their experts tell them this? I mean, the horizon lines in the woman's background are all screwed up. It's some kind of anti-Christian code that's been painted in there. How many millions of dollars in damage is the Priory going to get away with when it comes to the French national treasures?"
The president's speech ended with a resounding call to French President Jacques Chirac to "stop harboring terrorists."
Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) criticized the president's remarks in an interview with CNN later in the day.
"I think the request to the French is premature," McCain said. "We don't know much about this group, about either its goals or capabilities. It's important for American credibility in the world at this point at that any new threat we indicate is really demonstrably a threat. I'm not sure the Priory of Sion makes the grade in this regard."
There has yet been no official response from the French.
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