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By Toby Davis
LONDON, Jan 23 (Reuters) - West Bromwich Albion forward Nicolas Anelka has denied an English FA charge regarding an alleged anti-Semitic gesture he made during last month's 3-3 Premier League draw at West Ham United, his club said on Thursday.
The Frenchman, who made a "quenelle" salute after scoring his first goal in the match at Upton Park in London on Dec. 28, has requested a personal hearing, the Midlands club added in a statement on their website (www.wba.co.uk).
Anelka, who faces a minimum ban of five matches if found guilty, had used his Facebook and Twitter accounts to ask the FA to drop the charges and denied he was anti-Semitic or racist.
He claimed the gesture, which has been described as an inverted Nazi salute, is a tribute to his French comedian friend Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala who invented it.
Anelka said on Tuesday that he wanted to call a witness who was an expert in French language and culture who was living in France to put his gesture in context for the FA.
Anelka has used his social media outlets to defend himself and has a link to a video clip on the Le Figaro website that shows an interview with Roger Cukierman, president of CRIF, the council representing Jewish institutions in France, saying he did not think Anelka's action was anti-Semitic.
West Brom said they would make no further comment "until the FA's disciplinary process has reached a conclusion" but the gesture has already had repercussions for the club.
Zoopla, a property market search engine co-owned by Jewish businessman Alex Chesterman, said this week that it would not renew its three million pounds ($4.93 million) West Brom shirt sponsorship deal after this season because of Anelka's actions.
The FA charged former France international Anelka under Rule E3 for "making an abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper gesture.
"It is further alleged that this is an aggravated breach, as defined in FA Rule E3 2 in that it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief," the FA added in an earlier statement.
Anelka, who remains available for selection until the FA's disciplinary process has reached its conclusion, has received a 34-page document explaining the allegations against him. (Writing by Toby Davis; Editing by Ken Ferris)