- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 15, 2005

PARIS — President Jacques Chirac said yesterday that more than two weeks of violence in the poor suburbs of France is the sign of a “profound malaise” and ordered measures to reach out to the angry rioters.

In his first address to the nation since rioting erupted Oct. 27, the president said the laws of France must be obeyed and values rekindled in troubled suburbs occupied overwhelmingly by Arab and African immigrants, most of whom are Muslims.

“I want to tell the children from these difficult neighborhoods, whatever their origins, that they are all sons and daughters of the republic,” Mr. Chirac said.

“We will build nothing lasting without fighting discriminations that are a poison for society. We will build nothing durable unless we recognize and take on board the diversity of French society.”

Mr. Chirac spoke after the Cabinet approved a measure to extend a 12-day state of emergency until mid-February if needed. The emergency measures empower regional officials to impose curfews on minors, conduct house searches and take other steps to prevent violence.

About 40 French towns and cities have used the measure to put curfews for minors into effect.

Mr. Chirac, speaking with French and European Union flags behind him, said discrimination should be eliminated.

But he appeared to rule out U.S.-style affirmative-action programs amid a debate over whether France’s strict adherence to the principle of equality has caused it to fail in acknowledging and addressing racial tensions. “There is no question of entering into the logic of quotas,” the French leader said.

He said he has decided to set up a corps of volunteers to offer training for 50,000 young persons by 2007. He said the French press, which is nearly all white and of European extraction, must “better reflect the reality of France today.”

He told companies and unions that they must encourage diversity and support employment for the young from tough neighborhoods, saying it was important to fight “this poison for society which is discrimination.”

Mr. Chirac has commented on the rioting in other forums, but this was his first formal televised address to the nation.

Overnight, the number of car burnings — a barometer of the unrest — dropped again, with hoodlums setting fire to 284 vehicles, compared to 374 the previous night, police said yesterday. No clashes between police and rioters were reported.

“The lull is confirmed,” national police spokesman Patrick Hamon said. A week ago, 1,400 cars were burned in a single night.

The 18 nights of arson attacks and riots — set off by the accidental deaths of two teens who thought police were chasing them — began in Paris’ poor suburbs, where many immigrants from North and West Africa live with their French-born children in high-rise housing projects.

Mr. Chirac again scolded parents, whom officials blame for failing to stop their children from destructive rampages that have hopscotched across France.

Since the beginning of the unrest, 2,767 persons have been arrested, 115 since Sunday.

The French Federation of Insurance Companies gave a preliminary estimate for the damage from the rioting — up to $234 million, including more than $23 million for burned cars.

Officials are turning their attention to helping riot-stricken towns recover. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso proposed Sunday that the European Union give $58 million to France and said it could make up to $1.17 billion available in longer-term support for suburban jobs and social cohesion.

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