French arson attacks continue to fall as Senate votes on extending state of emergency | VailDaily.com
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French arson attacks continue to fall as Senate votes on extending state of emergency

PARIS – Parliament gave final approval Wednesday to extending France’s state of emergency for three months after the government said the powers are still needed to end the country’s worst civil unrest in four decades.The Senate voted 202-125 to extend emergency powers until February. The extra powers – which were approved by the lower house on Tuesday – allow regional and local officials to impose curfews and permit police searches at night, among other measures.Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy told the Senate that tensions in troubled neighborhoods justified continued state of emergency powers. The number of towns affected by unrest dropped to 79 overnight, down from 102 the previous night and more than 300 at the peak of the unrest, he said.”Seventy-nine is naturally too many,” Sarkozy added. “The future cannot be built on violence.”The leftist opposition says the emergency powers, first put in place Nov. 9 for a 12-day period, are no longer needed.Criticism has also mounted among others concerned that France is compromising its values and risked further enflaming passions. Dozens of groups held protests in Paris on Wednesday.At a rally that drew several hundred people, demonstrators demanded what they called a “social state of emergency” that gives a voice to immigrants and their French offspring.But Sarkozy said the emergency powers would be used responsibly and only where necessary. He told the Senate that 75-80 percent of the nearly 3,000 people arrested were already known to police.National police said vandals set fire to 163 vehicles overnight, down from 215 the previous night – a continuing drop that indicated an “almost normal situation everywhere” in France. Most violence was in the provinces, with 27 vehicles torched in the Paris region, compared with 60 a night earlier.A total of 8,973 vehicles have been set afire since the violence began Oct. 27. At the height of unrest, youths burned 1,408 vehicles across France in one night, on Nov. 6, and shots were fired at police.Some 10,600 police remain deployed to counter the violence, which included an arson attack early Wednesday on the Saint-Jean-d’Ars Roman Catholic church in Romans-sur-Isere, southeast France. Several mosques have also been attacked by vandals during the unrest.The crisis has led to collective soul-searching about France’s failure to integrate its African and Muslim minorities. Anger about high unemployment and discrimination has fanned frustration among the French-born children of immigrants.The unrest was set off by the accidental electrocution of two teenagers as they hid from police in a power substation in Clichy-sous-Bois, northeast of Paris.Vail, Colorado


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