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Unrest Spreading Beyond Paris


A wave of unrest that has engulfed the working-class suburbs around Paris has now spread beyond the French capital. For the first time, other cities with large immigrant populations reported violent incidents on Friday night.

French authorities said that nearly 900 vehicles were burned Friday, and that more than 200 people had been detained. A number of buildings were also set afire in the Paris area, including a preschool, a middle school and a supermarket.

That is the latest tally of nightly violence that started more than a week ago, when two African teenagers, apparently believing police were after them, hid in a power station and were accidentally electrocuted. Police say they were not chasing the boys.

That incident has sparked clashes between police and youths of ethnic-immigrant origin in the gritty housing projects and suburbs around Paris. On Friday night, several other large cities in France, including Strasbourg, Rennes and Toulouse also reported violent incidents.

Meanwhile, Marc Gautron, a top police official in France, told reporters Saturday that the tactics of those perpetrating the violence have changed.

Mr. Gautron said the rioters did not appear to be seeking direct confrontation with police. Instead, they were setting fires and running away before police arrive. That's one reason, he said, why more of them have not been detained.

The riots have exposed long-standing problems in France's immigrant-heavy suburbs, where unemployment and poverty are far higher than elsewhere in the country. Many of the rioters are young ethnic immigrants with French nationality who feel excluded in their own country.

Late Friday, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin met with 15 youths from the Paris suburbs where the violence has occurred to look at ways to restore calm.

The violence has sparked calls by opposition leftist politicians for France's law-and-order interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, to resign. Socialist Party leaders also wrote a letter to France's center-right government, saying it bore part of the responsibility for the crisis.

But analysts say the unrest partly reflects decades of failure by leftist and conservative governments alike to integrate France's immigrants and their offspring.

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