Source Pravda.Ru

Nicolas Sarkozy fights back as unrest spreads

Unrest spread across troubled suburbs around Paris in a sixth night of violence as police clashed with angry youths and scores of vehicles were torched in at least nine towns, officials said Wednesday.

Police in riot gear fired rubber bullets at advancing gangs of youths in Aulnay-sous-Bois - one of the worst-hit suburbs - where 15 cars were burned Tuesday night. Youths lobbed Molotov cocktails at an annex to the town hall and threw stones at the firehouse. It was not immediately clear whether the clashes led to any injuries.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy told Europe-1 radio that police detained 34 people overnight.

Sarkozy - blamed by many for fanning the violence with tough talk and tactics - defended his approach and vowed to restore calm. The minister recently called rioters "scum" and has vowed to "clean out" Paris' troubled suburbs.

Because of the unrest, Sarkozy canceled a visit to Pakistan and Afghanistan that had been planned for Nov. 6-9, his office announced Wednesday.

The rioting began last Thursday in the northeastern suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois after the accidental deaths of two teenagers electrocuted when they hid in a power substation because they thought police were chasing them. A third was injured. Officials have said police were not pursuing the boys, aged 15 and 17.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin met Tuesday evening with the parents of the three families, promising a full investigation of the deaths and insisting on "the need to restore calm."

The riots have highlighted the division between France's big cities and their poor suburbs, where anger and despair thrive. The violence has laid bare the frustrations simmering in poor housing projects to the north and northeast of the capital, heavily populated by North African Muslim immigrants and marked by soaring unemployment.

Officials gave an initial count of 69 vehicles torched in nine suburbs across the Seine-Saint-Denis region that arcs around Paris on the north and northeast.

Sarkozy said social aid to the suburbs provided over the years had been a failed tactic, the AP reports.