French President Calls Rioting 'Unacceptable'



French President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed to crack down Wednesday on rioters after two nights violence outside Paris. The rioting is reminiscent of the violence that swept the country in 2005, when youths staged violent protests against unemployment, living conditions, and what the rioters called discrimination against young Muslims and those of African descent. For VOA, Lisa Bryant has more from the French capital.

President Sarkozy vowed Wednesday a zero tolerance policy against the rioters after two nights of clashes between youths and police in the suburb of Villiers-le-Bel north of Paris.

Referring to angry youths who clashed with French police Sunday and Monday night, the French president described their actions as completely unacceptable, and said those who who fired at them were guilty of attempted assassination. He said authorities would track them down and bring them to justice.

More than 120 police officers were injured during the two nights of unrest. Mr. Sarkozy visited one of them at a hospital north of Paris Wednesday morning. He also met with the families of two teenagers killed in an accident with a police car Sunday night, whose deaths touched off the riots.

The violence died down Tuesday night in Villiers where 1,000 police had been deployed to keep matters calm. So far, more than 20 people have been detained for their role in clashes.

But it remains unclear whether the police crackdown will succeed in keeping a lid on the simmering youth anger in the Paris suburbs, and keep it from spreading to other parts of the country. Youths blamed police for Sunday's killing of the two teenagers in Villiers, although preliminary findings suggest the police were not responsible.

Mr. Sarkozy announced Wednesday that a judicial investigation would be opened to clarify the events around their deaths.

The violence recalls similar rioting in 2005 that spread across France. Critics say the same ingredients exist for a fresh bout of violence, notably unemployed youths living in low-income suburbs who feel marginalized. But this time police say the youths are better armed and more violent.

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