As aresponse to Israel's bombing of Lebanon, the Locarno International Film Festivalhas decided to drop the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs as one of thesponsors of this year's Leopards of Tomorrow sidebar.

A group offilmmakers, including Palestinian directors Elia Suleiman, Sameh Zoabi,Annemarie Jacir and Lebanese-born Elie Khalife and Myrna Maakaron, who havefilms invited to screen in the sidebar's competition or retrospective, haddemanded that the festival withdraw the Israeli ministry from the list ofsponsors.

They saythe move is "in consideration of the hundreds of innocent civilians thathave been murdered by the State of Israel in its ongoing campaign."

Each hadindicated that they would have no choice but to withdraw their films from theprogramme if the festival had not heeded this petition)

In astatement issued by festival director Frederic Maire and the Leopards ofTomorrow section head Chicca Bergonzi, the festival announced that, "giventhe current crisis in the Middle East Region", the sidebar and its mainsponsor, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) "decidedto cover all travel and hospitality expenses for the filmmakers of this areainvited to participate in the section's monographic competition.