French government ministers are putting on a united front after an emergency meeting to discuss rioting in impoverished suburbs of Paris. The violence has thrown the spotlight on the government’s law and order policies, and exposed tensions within an already divided administration.
But, in parliament, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin expressed his backing for under-fire Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, a potential rival in presidential elections in 2007. Villepin said his cabinet’s priority was to re-establish public order. Both he and Sarkozy have cancelled foreign trips to focus on the problem.
The trouble, in mainly immigrant neighbourhoods, erupted after two teenagers were electrocuted last week in a power sub-station while reportedly fleeing police. Community leaders say lack of jobs and recognition in French society has fuelled the anger of local young people. Sarkozy has ordered the police to take a tough line with the rioters, but so far it appears to have had little impact.