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Last Updated: Friday, 10 December, 2004, 12:04 GMT
Saintly chocs hit by French ban
Women protesting against the headscarf ban in Paris
The religious symbols ban has caused most anger among Muslims
Children in north-east France will be deprived of a traditional chocolate treat this winter, under the country's ban on religious symbols in schools.

The chocolate figures, depicting St Nicholas, were recalled from the area's schools after a teacher noticed large crosses on them, banned under the law.

The mainly Flemish region celebrates the saint's day on 6 December by delivering the chocolates to schools.

The law, which also bans Islamic headscarves, took effect in September.

The discovery was made when a primary school teacher unwrapped the chocolates, and all 1,300 figures were recalled.

But the incident angered the mayor of Coudekerque-Branche, where the row occurred over the saint, also known as Santa Claus.

"The teachers didn't have to touch anything," he said, quoted by AFP news agency. "St Nicholas was a bishop, he is always portrayed with his cross and missal."

But he added that once the chocolates had been opened they were a health risk and could not be sent back.

The council was forced to replace the figures with "nice round sweets and chocolate bars", Le Figaro newspaper said.


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