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French National Assembly Approves Controversial Immigration Bill

The lower house of the French parliament has approved an immigration bill the government says is aimed at attracting educated and skilled workers while restricting entry for those of lower qualifications.

The National Assembly, by a vote of 367-164 Wednesday, adopted the bill, which the opposition criticized as xenophobic. Proposed by Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, the measure still needs the approval of the French Senate, which is expected to take it up next month.

The draft would create what is called a three-year skills and talent residency permit for those seeking visas.

In presenting the bill to parliament earlier this month, Sarkozy said riots by mainly unemployed Muslim youths earlier this year show the country's immigration system is failing and that many immigrants will not integrate into society. He said most French would be willing to accept what he called "selective" immigration.

Leftists and some religious leaders call the measure racist and anti-Christian. They also complain that the bill would make it harder for immigrants to bring their families to France.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.