French riots dominate front-page news in UK

8th November 2005, Comments 0 comments

LONDON, Nov 8 (AFP) - The riots in France continued to be front-page in Britain on Tuesday, with major newspapers dwelling on the causes and solutions.

LONDON, Nov 8 (AFP) - The riots in France continued to be front-page in Britain on Tuesday, with major newspapers dwelling on the causes and solutions.

The conservative Daily Telegraph splashed a full-colour picture across the top of page one, showing firefighters in silhouette against a burning car in Mulhouse, in the east of France.

"Leaders fiddle as France burns," read the headline, while the main story from its Paris correspondent began: "France was struggling to overcome one of its gravest post-war crises".

The liberal Guardian put a riot police officer and an overturned car on its front page, and dedicated a full inside page to news reports and graphics, leaving its editorial page to heap scorn on interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy.

"He spoke of cleansing 'the scum' from the suburbs, reconquering territory, and divided society between 'them' and 'us'. Is it any wonder racism in France is more virulent than in the United Kingdom?" it asked.

It added: "The conditions under which young people from ethnic minorities are living in France are as bad, if not worse than those that black people suffered in Detroit in the 1960s and Brixton (south London) in the 1980s."

Paul Vallely, in a column in The Independent, said France could draw lessons from Britain's brand of multiculturalism, citing as an example "racial identity nurturing" in the Moss Side district of Manchester, in the north of England.

"One school in Moss Side has 37 different nationalities," Vallely wrote. "Black children there do Irish dancing, and white kids play in the local Jamaican steel band."

The Financial Times, which put a photo of a grim-looking president Jacques Chirac on the front page of its British edition, saw the way out of destitution in France's bleak, impoverished ethnic suburbs in economic terms.

"The best way to tackle youth and minority unemployment would be to cut the minimum wage and payroll taxes, while providing new in-work benefits or negative income taxes to make work pay," it said in an editorial.

"Policies that reduce unemployment do not necessarily banish alienation... But economic opportunity reduces the reservoir of dissatisfaction in which anger and hate breed."

In the mass-circulation Sun tabloid, which notoriously branded Chirac a "worm" for opposing the US and British invasion of Iraq in 2003, political editor Trevor Kavanagh saw Muslim factions at work.

"London, Berlin, Amsterdam and Brussels are looking on with concern in case anarchy spreads to their Muslim quarters... The vacuum (of authority) has been filled not between civic authorities, but between competing factions in the Islamic community."

The Daily Telegraph, in an editorial, similarly feared that the violence could spread across Europe.

"The rapid spread of the disturbances from the Parisian suburbs to cities such as Toulouse and Strasbourg offers little ground for complacency to neighbours with large immigrant populations, rigid labour laws, self-serving political elites and sluggish economic growth."

British prime minister Tony Blair also weighed in Monday saying that "everybody is concerned" at nightly rioting sweeping French cities and voiced his support for French authorities in trying to handle the unrest.

Citing Britain's own experience with inner city tensions, Blair said it was crucial not to be "complacent", and to work non-stop on improving community relations in big cities.

"Everybody is concerned at what is happening, and I send every support to the French government and to the French people in dealing with the situation," said Blair at his monthly Downing Street press conference.

"We should never be complacent about these things, although I think our situation, in some ways, is different," he said.

"I suspect it is part of the French authorities gripping (coming to grips with) a law-and-order situation, which has to be done."

Apparently referring to urban race riots in northern England in 2001, Blair added: "We faced a situation in this country a few years back when the police started to take tough measures and there were issues and difficulties."

"You have just got to work at this community relations thing the whole time."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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