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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 March 2007, 16:11 GMT 17:11 UK
Paris riot becomes election issue
Rioters in Paris
The violence spilled out of the station and into nearby streets
Riots at a train station in the French capital, Paris, have become an issue in the upcoming presidential election.

The government's candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy, said police were justified in arresting an alleged fare dodger - the action that sparked the riots.

Socialist candidate Segolene Royal said the clashes resulted from Mr Sarkozy's failures as interior minister.

About 100 youths clashed with police at the Gare du Nord station after a dispute over a train fare.

Rioters smashed windows and attacked vending machines and shops, after objecting to the treatment of a man arrested for jumping a ticket barrier.

Transport officials said the man punched two ticket inspectors who asked for his ticket as part of a routine inspection.

But a growing crowd at the station felt that the police used excessive force to arrest the man.

I want to tell the French that I will not be on the side of fraudsters, cheats, dishonest people... those who think that in order to be heard, they must demolish a train station
Nicolas Sarkozy

Police used teargas to disperse youths at the station, a major hub for trains to the suburbs north of Paris and 13 people were arrested.

With French elections due next month, the left and right were quick to offer their interpretation of the violence.

Front-runner Nicolas Sarkozy, from the ruling centre-right UMP party said the police had acted properly in arresting the alleged fare cheat.

In five years with a rightist government that has made security its main campaign issue, you can see that it's failure all down the line
Segolene Royal

"I want to tell the French that I will not be on the side of fraudsters, cheats, dishonest people... those who think that in order to be heard, they must demolish a train station and break public equipment paid for by taxpayers."

Mr Sarkozy stepped down as interior minister on Monday to concentrate on his election campaign.

His main rival, Segolene Royal, said it was Mr Sarkozy's policies that were to blame for creating an atmosphere of hostility between youths and police.

"In five years with a rightist government that has made security its main campaign issue, you can see that it's failure all down the line," she told Canal+ television.

Police charge rioters
Police took several hours to clear Gare du Nord of rioters

Mr Sarkozy gained a reputation as a law-and-order hardliner in 2005 when France saw its most severe riots for decades in its poor and mainly immigrant suburbs.

The unrest led the government to declare a state of national emergency.

As interior minister at the time, Mr Sarkozy was quick to crack down on the uprisings in the suburbs, causing controversy when he labelled the rioters "rabble".

The youths who gathered in the Gare du Nord on Tuesday shouted insults about Mr Sarkozy.




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Riots break out in a Paris metro station





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