Category: France

G8 summit: Arab uprisings look to dominate agenda

Ref: A shift in global influence to emerging powers such as India and China who are not in the G8 has led to the group’s relevance being questioned.

Security is tight in the French seaside resort of Deauville

Security is tight in the French seaside resort of Deauville

But analysts say recent events such as uprisings in the Arab world and Japan’s nuclear crisis have given the group a new sense of purpose.
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Women in face veils detained as France enforces ban

Ref: At least two women have been detained in France while wearing Islamic veils across their faces, after a law banning the garment in public came into force.

Police said they were held not because of their veils but for joining an unauthorised protest against the ban.

France is the first country in Europe to publicly ban a form of dress some Muslims regard as a religious duty.

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Islamic headscarf: French curbs come into force

Ref: A law has come into force in France which makes it an offence for a Muslim woman to conceal her face behind a veil when in public.

Anyone caught breaking the law will be liable to a fine of 150 euros (£133, $217) and a citizenship course.

People forcing women to wear the veil face a much larger fine and a prison sentence of up to two years.

France is the first country in Europe to publicly ban a form of dress some Muslims regard as a religious duty.

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Islam debate in France sparks controversy

Ref: President Nicolas Sarkozy’s party, the UMP, has hosted a controversial debate on the practice of Islam in secular France.

The debate provoked protests from Islamic and other religious groups, and even from some members of the governing party itself.

Critics have accused the party of pandering to a resurgent far right.

The debate was held a week before a law banning the Islamic full-face veil in public comes into force.

With Muslim religious leaders boycotting the event, only politicians or representatives of other faiths took part in the three-hour, round-table discussion at a Paris hotel.

The BBC's Hugh Schofield in Paris says the political atmosphere in France in recent days has been poisonous, with accusations flying between left and right.

According to government estimates, France has as many as six million Muslims, or just under 10% of the population, making it the biggest Muslim minority in western Europe.
French people 'challenged'
French people protest against UMP debate on secularism The debate has provoked outrage among some

The UMP argued that it would be irresponsible not to debate the great changes posed to French society by its growing numbers of Muslims.

It outlined 26 ideas aimed at underpinning the country's secular character, which was enshrined in a law of 1905.

The law poses modern-day quandaries about issues such as halal food being served in schools and Muslims praying in the street when mosques are too crowded.

Proposals discussed on Tuesday included

* banning the wearing of religious symbols such as Muslim headscarves or prominent Christian crosses by day care personnel

* preventing Muslim mothers from wearing headscarves when accompanying children on school field trips

* preventing parents from withdrawing their children from mandatory subjects including physical education and biology.

Launching the debate entitled simply "Secularity" before 200 guests and scores of journalists, UMP leader Jean-Francois Cope defended the idea of holding it at all.

Accusing the opposition Socialists of being in denial and the National Front of demagoguery, he called for "a third way, that of responsibility".

"Many French people have the feeling that the republican pact to which they are attached is being challenged by globalisation and the failures of integration," he said.

However, one of Mr Cope's most senior UMP colleagues, Prime Minister Francois Fillon, declined to take part in the debate, warning that it risked "stigmatising Muslims".

Gilles Bernheim, France's chief rabbi, said the debate was "importune" but he was taking part nonetheless.

"We did not ask for this debate but there was no question for us of boycotting it and stigmatising a political party, even if it is a ruling party," he told reporters after arriving at the hotel.

Salim Himidi, a former foreign minister of the largely Muslim Comoros Islands, said Islam's relations with the secular state was "an important subject" that had to be discussed.

"I think France has a mission that goes beyond its geographical limits," he added.

Condemning the debate, Hassan Ben M'Barek of the pressure group Banlieues Respect, said it was aimed only at "keeping the UMP in the media in the year before the [next presidential] election".

French PM Fillon says Mubarak lent him plane on holiday

Ref: French Prime Minister Francois Fillon has said the Egyptian president lent him and his family a plane during a holiday in Egypt at Christmas. Hosni Mubarak, who is facing widespread anti-government protests, also paid for Mr Fillon’s holiday accommodation.Another French minister has said she used a Tunisian businessman’s plane during the country’s uprising.

Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, who has faced calls to resign, said she deeply regretted her actions. Read more →

French Qaeda hostages in Africa still alive: Sarkozy

Ref: France is “certain” that five French hostages seized in Niger by an al-Qaeda regional offshoot are still alive, President Nicolas Sarkozy told reporters Monday.

“We believe that they are still alive. We are certain of it,” he told reporters, adding that two French journalists held in Afghanistan for more than a year were also still alive.
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Sarkozy condemns Islamabad on Mumbai attacks

Ref: French President Nicolas Sarkozy condemned Pakistan yesterday for allowing extremists “safe havens” in its tribal border areas, as he paid tribute to the victims of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Sarkozy, in Mumbai on the last day of a four-day visit to India, said it was “unacceptable” that terror networks could find refuge in Pakistan and use it as a springboard to attack India, French troops in Afghanistan or other countries.
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Sarkozy`s Day 3 in India: Big nuclear deals firmed up

Ref: New Delhi: It`s French President Nicolas Sarkozy`s third day in India and the top on the agenda is signing up agreements on nuclear trade. Last night, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Sarkozy met over dinner and the two leaders are believed to have discussed civil nuclear cooperation on which some agreements are to be signed.

The final negotiating hitches have been crossed. On the guest list were Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Pranab Mukherjee, SM Krishna, Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, Speaker Meira Kumar, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and the National Security Advisor, Shiv Shankar Menon. Read more →

Al-Qaeda branch warns France

Ref: The leader of al-Qaeda’s North African wing has demanded the withdrawal of French forces from Afghanistan in return for the safety of French nationals kidnapped in Niger.

AQIM offered last month to release its French hostages in exchange for a repeal of the ban on the face-veil in France

Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud, of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb [AQIM], made the comments in an audio tape aired by Al Jazeera on Thursday.
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Sarkozy unveils new French cabinet

Ref: Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, has reappointed Francois Fillon as prime minister in a ministerial reshuffle aimed at shoring up his position 18 months before the next presidential election.

Fillon, right, is more popular with the electorate and is widely seen as more competent figure than Sarkozy, left

Bernard Kouchner, the foreign minister, was replaced by Michele Alliot-Marie, while Alain Juppe, the former right-wing prime minister, returned to government to take over defence.
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