May 29, 2006

French youths clash with police in Paris suburbs

PARIS (Reuters) - Around a hundred youths clashed with
police during the night after setting fire to cars and rubbish
bins in a Paris suburb that was the scene of violent riots last
November, a local official said on Tuesday.

Seven police officers were slightly injured and six youths
were arrested in a neighbourhood of Seine-Saint-Denis in
confrontations that started at about 2030 GMT on Monday
evening, according to a security official from the suburb to
the North of the French capital.

The youths began burning cars in reaction to a police
operation in which a young man was arrested several hours
earlier. Officials said they did not yet know how many cars had
been burned.

There were also incidents in the neighboring area of
Clichy-Sous-Bois, where last year's riots began after two
youngsters died while they were apparently fleeing police.

In the three weeks of rioting that followed around France,
youths clashed with police in poor suburbs which are home to
large immigrant populations.

Some 9,000 cars and several schools were set ablaze and the
government was forced to use emergency powers to quell the
unrest that was the worst France had seen in nearly 40 years.

The rioters, many of whom where of African or Arab in
origin, complained of discrimination, high unemployment and
lack of opportunities.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has said the riots showed
the immigration system was not working. He proposed a revamp of
France's immigration system that has drawn widespread criticism
from opposition parties and immigrant groups.

The law, which is due to be debated in the Senate in June,

aims of keeping unskilled immigrants out and improve
integration with language tests.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin responded to the
violence by proposing a new law earlier this year that he said
would help reduce youth unemployment in poor suburbs.

But students and opposition parties were strongly opposed
to the jobs measures and organised a series of mass protests
that forced Villepin into an embarrassing climbdown over the
project in April and raised questions about his future ahead of
the 2007 presidential election.