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Tuesday, May 4, 1999 Published at 20:15 GMT 21:15 UK

World: Europe

French parliament debates Corsica scandal

The French national assembly is debating the case of the top government official on Corsica, Bernard Bonnet, who's been detained over allegations of involvement in an arson attack.

Mr Bonnet, who was sent to Corsica to rid the island of corruption and gangsterism, is being questioned about the firebombing of a restaurant last month. Three French police officers who are already under investigation have said they were ordered to burn the restaurant by Corsica's head of police. The Interior Minister, Jean-Pierre Chevenement, acknowledged serious mistakes in police work, but said Mr Bonnet should be presumed innocent until proven otherwise.

French opposition parties are accusing police of burning the restaurant in order to blame it on Corsican nationalist groups, who are waging a violent campaign for independence. A BBC correspondent in Paris says the affair will have enormous political consequences, and the process of re-establishing law and order in Corsica has suffered a colossal setback.

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