Source Pravda.Ru

French president meets youths from disadvantaged neighborhoods, gives message of hope after riots

Disadvantaged youths "deserve to be helped, recognized and encouraged," President Jacques Chirac said as he met with a group of successful youths from the low-income neighborhoods riven by rioting earlier this month.

As the country's worst civil unrest in decades has waned, Chirac turned his attention away from security to finding ways to target the roots of the problems faced by young people in tough suburbs, such as high unemployment and racial discrimination. He met with the winners of a contest for talented young entrepreneurs.

"In a lot of housing projects, there is a wonderful dynamic of solidarity, creation, dynamism, generosity and energy, of which we can be proud," Chirac said Friday. "People can succeed there, if they want to."

Young people from low-income neighborhoods "must be helped, recognized and encouraged," he said.

Many of the rioters were the French-born children of North and West African immigrant families. The three weeks of violence sparked intense debate over France's failure to integrate minorities and forced the government to confront problems of racism and poverty that are deeply entrenched but usually ignored.

At its worst, the rioting that began Oct. 27 spread to nearly 300 towns and cities and involved violent exchanges of stones and tear gas between youths and police. Rioters fired live bullets and birdshot at officers and, at the peak, incinerated 1,408 vehicles in a single night.

From Thursday to Friday, only 93 cars were burned nationwide _ a near-normal figure in France, where torching cars is a common form of delinquency.

Though the violence has subsided, parliament approved a three-month extension of the state of emergency Wednesday at the government's request. First imposed for 12 days on Nov. 9, the extended emergency means local authorities can impose curfews and police can conduct searches of homes when deemed necessary through mid-February, AP reported. V.A.