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Sarkozy says burka 'not welcome' in France

14 January 10 11:02 GMT

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has reiterated his view that the full burka is "not welcome" in France, as a debate continues on whether to ban it.

A parliamentary report on the issue is due out at the end of January.

Mr Sarkozy did not explicitly call for a ban, saying "no one should feel stigmatised" by any eventual law.

His UMP party is to put forward a bill this month banning the wearing of the Islamic veil in public, as a means of defending France against "extremists".

Mr Sarkozy said the first step should be for parliament to adopt a resolution that would unequivocally condemn the burka - and then move on to considering a ban.

He said no decision should be made until parliament hears the results of a six-month commission on whether a law banning such garments from public places was needed.

The results are expected to be published by 27 January, and the commission's head, communist MP Andre Gerin, was quoted on Wednesday as saying the next step would be a debate on any such law.

Home to Europe's largest Muslim population, France in 2004 banned burkas and other "conspicuous" religious symbols in state schools and by public employees.

Last summer, French MPs held hearings on whether to ban the burka - the full Muslim veil, which covers the body from head to toe.

France's opposition Socialists are against a law banning the veil - although they remain firmly opposed to the garment - saying a ban would be difficult to impose.

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