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France to take in 400 refugees a month from Greece - minister

A stranded African migrant holds onto a police fence during a protest at the Greek-Macedonian border near the Greek village of Idomeni November 26, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

PARIS (Reuters) - France plans to take in 400 refugees a month from Greece under a European Union plan for distributing asylum seekers, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Thursday, substantially increasing its intake.

The announcement came as Prime Minister Manuel Valls was in Athens to offer reassurances that Paris would live up to its commitments to take in 32,000 additional asylum seekers over the next two years.

Nearly 100 additional refugees arrived this week from Greece and Italy and another 253 are due from Greece next week, Cazeneuve said in a statement.

The EU plan for sharing out refugees was agreed last September, but has been very slow in taking off.

The scheme was set up as Greece struggled to cope with the chaotic arrival of nearly a million people last year, many of them Syrian refugees, most of whom went to Germany.

As of last month, only 1,441 asylum seekers had been relocated to other EU countries out of the 160,000 provided for under the temporary scheme.

An EU-Turkey deal under which Ankara agreed to take back all irregular migrants who cross the Aegean to Greece has reduced the flow to a trickle since late March, but the numbers crossing from Libya to Italy have increased in recent weeks.

Reporting by Chine Labbe; Writing by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Paul Taylor and Tom Heneghan