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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 November 2005, 20:32 GMT
France MPs back emergency powers
French firemen putting out a fire in Lyon
Violence appears to be abating
The lower house of France's parliament has approved plans to extend special powers by three months to try to bring a wave of urban rioting under control.

The emergency laws also need the approval of the Senate, which votes on the issue on Wednesday.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy had told deputies France was facing one of its "sharpest and most complex urban crises", which required "firmness".

He said most of those arrested in the riots were already known delinquents.

The state of emergency laws, allowing local authorities to impose curfews, conduct house-to-house searches and ban public gatherings, date from the Algerian war of independence in the 1950s.

I have a distinct preference for temporary rather than permanent increases in police powers
Lawrie, Leeds

President Jacques Chirac told cabinet ministers the extraordinary powers are "strictly temporary and will only be applied where they are strictly necessary".

Mr Chirac has said the unrest showed that France was suffering a crisis of identity.

He pledged to create new jobs for the young and fight the "poison" of racism.

Arrests down

Some 215 cars were set alight on Monday night, the police said, 69 fewer than the previous night and a sign that the unrest is past its peak.

The number of cars burnt has been treated as a barometer of the unrest.

Some 1,400 vehicles were torched during the worst in a series of nightly riots that first flared in late October in impoverished neighbourhoods with a high concentration of ethnic Arabs and Africans.

French President Jacques Chirac
How many CVs are thrown in the waste paper basket just because of the name or the address of the applicant?
Jacques Chirac

Monday night also saw a drop in the number of people arrested - down to 42 from 112 the night before.

A police officer was wounded and three firebombs were flung at a mosque near the city of Lyon.

Mr Sarkozy said procedures got under way on Tuesday to deport 10 foreigners involved in the rioting. He has already promised any foreigner involved will be expelled.

Addressing deputies in the French parliament after visiting the suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois, one of the first flashpoints, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said France faced a situation of "unprecedented gravity".

"We cannot accept that more than 200 cars burn each night," the prime minister said.

Chirac support slips

The Socialist opposition attacked plans to extend the state of emergency, pointing out that few local governors had chosen to impose it.

However, the measure passed by 346-148.

It is expected to pass in the Senate, which is dominated by the same centre-right party as the lower house, on Wednesday.

The parliamentary debate came the day after Mr Chirac made his first major public speech on the rioting.

Mr Chirac's supporters hailed his speech, but the BBC's David Chazan in Paris says opinion polls have shown a huge slide in support for the president since rioting broke out.

On Monday evening, the far-right leader Jean-Marie le Pen led a protest against France's immigration laws.

"We let in 10 million foreigners over 30 years - it's wild insanity. No country can handle that invasion," Mr Le Pen said.

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