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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 January 2006, 17:59 GMT
Chirac plans end to colonial law
President Jacques Chirac
Jacques Chirac also announced plans for a slavery remembrance day
French President Jacques Chirac has said a controversial law on the teaching of France's colonial past will be overturned.

The law requires teachers to stress positive aspects of French colonialism, especially in north Africa.

But during a New Year address, Mr Chirac said the law was "dividing the French" and should be rewritten.

MPs from the Socialist and Communist parties say rewriting the law is not enough and it should be scrapped.

Victorin Lurel, from Guadeloupe, whose Socialist Party had tried to block the law, said: "The only solution is to repeal this law of shame, pure and simple."
History must not be written by law
President Jacques Chirac

The colonial history law was passed by the conservative-led parliament in February last year.

Overseas minister Francois Baroin told France Inter radio the law was a sore point for French people whose families came from the former colonies.

Around 44,000 people signed a petition calling for the law to be repealed.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy was forced to cancel a planned trip to France's Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe by the risk of angry protests, according to AFP.

Mr Chirac, who ordered the law to be reviewed last month, said the National Assembly speaker would table a bill for the law to be rewritten "and come up with a wording which will bring people together and put their minds at rest".

"I want this approach to be part of a more general thinking process because history must not be written by law," he said.

Slavery day

Mr Chirac, who plans to run for re-election in 2007, also announced the establishment of a slavery remembrance day in France - on a date to be announced later this year.

"The question of slavery is a wound for a large number of our fellow citizens, in particular overseas," he said.

"France has set an example by being the first country in the world - and still the only one today - to recognise slavery as a crime against humanity. I have decided to establish a day of remembrance in France."

The end of 2005 was not a harmonious one for Mr Chirac's France - especially in the largely immigrant suburbs.

The worst unrest in the country in nearly 40 years began when two boys of North and West African origin were electrocuted in a Paris suburb after running from police, believing they were being chased.

Residents of the country's poor suburbs, where most of the unrest took place, complained of racism and heavy-handed policing.

Wednesday also marked the lifting of the state of emergency imposed to deal with the riots.

France lifts state of emergency
04 Jan 06 |  Europe
Colonial abuses haunt France
16 May 05 |  Europe
Timeline: French riots
14 Nov 05 |  Europe
Country profile: France
20 Dec 05 |  Country profiles

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