French Cabinet Authorizes Curfews Amid 12 Days of Violence

By Molly Moore
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, November 8, 2005; 10:59 AM

PARIS, Nov. 8 -- The French Cabinet Tuesday authorized local officials to impose curfews in an effort to halt the riots that have inflamed poor neighborhoods in the Paris suburbs and 300 towns across the nation for the last 12 days.

"We will now be able to act in a preventative manner to avoid these incidents," said Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. "The policy of the government is firm, level-headed and measured."

There were no immediate details on where or how curfews might be imposed or how long they might last. A government spokesman said the state-of-emergency decree authorizing the curfews would go into effect at midnight Tuesday.

It also was not immediately certain how many communities would impose the curfews, which are allowed under a 1955 state-of-emergency law enacted during Algeria's war for independence from France.

The arsons continued unabated across the country Monday night. Although the violence diminished slightly in some Parisian suburbs, police reported major attacks against schools and other public building.

In the 12th night of unrest, rioters in the southern city of Toulouse ordered passengers off a bus and then set it on fire and pelted police with gasoline bombs and rocks overnight, wire services reported. Youths also torched another bus in the northeastern Paris suburb of Stains, said Patrick Hamon, a spokesman for the national police.

Nationwide, vandals burned 1,173 cars overnight compared with 1,408 vehicles a night earlier, police said. A total of 330 people were arrested, down from 395 the night before.

"The intensity of this violence is on the way down," national police chief Michel Gaudin said. He said there were "much fewer" attacks on public buildings and fewer direct clashes between youths and police. He said rioting was reported in 226 towns across France, compared to nearly 300 the night before, the Associated Press reported.

Outside the capital in Sevran, a junior high school was set ablaze, while in another Paris suburb, Vitry-sur-Seine, youths threw gasoline bombs at a hospital, Hamon said. No one was injured.

Rioters also attacked a police station with gasoline bombs in Chenove, in Burgundy's Cote D'Or, Hamon said. A nursery school in Lille-Fives, in northern France, was set on fire, regional officials said.

In a television address to the nation Monday night, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin announced his government's new plan to curb the riots: 1,500 additional police officers on the streets, the curfews, parental intervention and more educational opportunities for students in affected suburbs.

Confronted by the most dramatic social uprising since 1968, the government of France remains largely helpless against gangs of angry youths. The response is being crafted by a lame-duck president and an interior minister and a prime minister who are slugging it out to replace him.

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