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Last Updated: Friday, 25 November 2005, 11:29 GMT
Rap 'not cause of French riots'
French firemen putting out a fire in Lyon
Arson attacks that began in the Paris region spread across France
The French Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin, has dismissed claims by some of his party colleagues that rap music fuelled suburban rioting in France.

Mr de Villepin told French radio that he wanted to avoid finger-pointing about the origins of the unrest.

But he said that the courts should deal with lyrics that overstepped the mark.

About 200 MPs have urged the justice ministry to prosecute seven rap groups over allegedly provocative lyrics. A probe has begun into one group.

Speaking on French radio, Mr de Villepin said: "I very much wish during this period - it is one of my primary responsibilities - to avoid any sort of confusion or finger-pointing."

"Is rap responsible for the crisis in the suburbs? My answer is no," he said.

"When one writes a song, when one writes a book, when one expresses oneself, do we have a responsibility? Yes," he added.

'Crude art'

Almost 9,000 cars and many public buildings were burnt in three weeks of unrest across the country.

The violence began in October after the accidental deaths of two teenagers who were reportedly being chased by police.

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin
Mr de Villepin said songs that violate hate laws would be dealt with

The campaign to prosecute rappers is led by MP Francois Grosdidier, a member of Mr de Villepin's governing UMP party.

"Sexism, racism and anti-Semitism are no more acceptable in lyrics than in written or spoken words," he said earlier this week.

"This is one of the factors that led to the violence in the suburbs," he added.

Mr Grosdidier lodged a complaint with the justice ministry, urging action against seven rap groups. The document was supported by many UMP parliamentarians.

Prosecutors have begun an inquiry into a song entitled FranSSe, in which rapper Monsieur R calls France a prostitute.

Monsieur R says the song is a diatribe against French leaders who have neglected ethnic minorities, not an attack on France in general.

"Hip hop is a crude art, so we use crude words. It is not a call to violence," he told French television.

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