Villepin defends his programme for the suburbs

26th October 2006, Comments 0 comments

CERGY, France, Oct 26, 2006 (AFP) - On the eve of the anniversary of last year's riots, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin on Thursday defended his government's record in fighting deprivation in the country's high-immigration suburbs.

CERGY, France, Oct 26, 2006 (AFP) - On the eve of the anniversary of last year's riots, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin on Thursday defended his government's record in fighting deprivation in the country's high-immigration suburbs.

Speaking at a press conference in the northwestern Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise, Villepin also called for "exemplary" punishments against youths who attack police and said there should be no areas that are off-limits to the forces of law and order.

"If there is one field in which the government has acted with unfailing determination, it is in policy towards the (poor) neighbourhoods," Villepin said.

"I hear people say that nothing has been done for the 'banlieues'. I hear people say that nothing has changed. That, I cannot accept. Of course the problems are not all going to be sorted out overnight.

"But the government has embarked on a radical, long-term plan of action, and we are beginning to see the first results."

Villepin was speaking a day before the first anniversary of the 2005 riots, in which more than 10,000 cars were torched in three weeks of disturbances in the country's poor out-of-town estates.

Police have warned of an increase in tensions as the anniversary approached, with an increase in physical attacks on police-officers. On Wednesday night two buses were hijacked and burned in separate incidents in the Paris outskirts.

Villepin defended the role of police, who have been accused by activists in the suburbs of insensitive tactics and abandoning daytime foot patrols.

"There is no point in asking ... police to go out on foot in the afternoon and in the morning, when we know well these are not the times of day when there is any real danger," he said.

"They have to be on the ground when the risks of trouble are highest, and our police organisation has to reflect that.

"If there is one absolute, essential rule — it is the Republic. The Republic means rights and duties, and the duty of the Republic is to be present on the ground wherever it is necessary. It means rejecting no-go areas and making sure that those who take on the job are protected.

"That is why I have asked for punishments to be toughened when there are attacks on people representing public authority," he said.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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