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French President Vows to End Disturbances, Address Grievances


French President Jacques Chirac says his top priority is ending the two-week old wave of urban unrest, and he pledged to address the root causes of the violence. The French leader paid tribute to what he called the "professionalism and self-control" of security forces battling rioters, many of whom are youths of North African descent. But Mr. Chirac also told a Paris news conference the government will have to respond to problems in working-class suburbs – the scene of most of the rioting. Youths with immigrant backgrounds in France often complain of police harassment, racism and job discrimination. The violence began October 27th after the accidental deaths of two teenagers of North African descent who thought they were being chased by police.

On Thursday, police reported fewer violent incidents in many metropolitan areas where nighttime curfews are in effect. But Ahmed El-Keiy says it’s the increasing effectiveness of dialogue and the work of civic groups that are lowering the number of violent acts overnight. Mr. El-Keiy is the editor-in-chief of the minority-run radio station Beur-FM.

He says callers to his radio station criticize the curfew and other measures taken to curb rioting. He says callers are critical that the government has relied on state of emergency measures created in the 1950’s to repress Algerians during the country’s war for independence from France. The French journalist also says if the government follows through on its plans to both imprison and expel illegal immigrants involved in the rioting, it will be punishing those found guilty twice.

Mr. El-Keiy says new measures proposed by authorities for helping improve the lives of immigrants in the suburbs could represent a new beginning – but only if the rhetoric is followed by effective actions.

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