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Last Updated: Monday, 14 November 2005, 04:30 GMT
EU offers France aid after riots
Firemen extinguish a car blaze in the southern town of Carpentras

France has been offered 50m euros ($59m; 34m) by the European Union to help recover from more than two weeks of rioting in poor city suburbs.

European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso said up to 1bn euros could be made available eventually for job creation and to help social cohesion.

French insurers estimate that damage claims alone will reach 200m euros.

Violence has been dwindling, but sporadic incidents were reported during the 18th night of unrest.

Two schools and cars were torched in the Lyon area and Toulouse and Strasbourg also reported incidents.

French police chief Michel Gaudin said earlier that "things could return to normal very quickly", given the decline in unrest.

'Jobs are key'

The French government's response to Mr Barroso's offer, made in a letter to Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, was not immediately available.

Car blazes in Toulouse's the La Reynerie housing estate
8,400 vehicles burnt nationwide along with dozens of public buildings
Dozens injured and one death said to be connected
2,652 people arrested, 592 in custody
Insurance claims put at 200m euros

source: AFP news agency

In a radio interview, the head of the European Commission said youth employment was a key challenge.

"The best social politics is to create employment," he told Europe 1.

"When you have 60% of youths unemployed in suburbs it is a problem."

Other big European cities, he said, had similar problems and had come up with their own solutions but it was "up to governments to work out how to address their own problems".

Unrest has continued among mainly Arab and African communities on rundown housing estates for 17 nights since the accidental deaths of two teenagers on 27 October, who were reportedly trying to hide from police.

About 8,400 vehicles have been burnt nationwide along with dozens of public buildings including schools and gyms, according to a tally released by the French state news agency AFP on Sunday.

Dozens of people including residents, police and firefighters have been injured, while one firefighter received serious facial injuries from a petrol bomb and a disabled woman suffered serious burns when a bus was set alight.

The death of a 61-year-old man in a street assault has been connected by some to the riots.

Police have arrested 2,652 people, the youngest of them aged 10, and 592 were remanded in custody.

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