Emergency extended in France

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy told the lawmakers before the vote that the extension was necessary because “even though there appears to be a progressive return to calm, nothing has been definitively achieved.”

The vote in the National Assembly was 346 in favor to 148 against, with four abstentions.

Left wing politicians have expressed opposition to the extension of the state of emergency, saying it was no longer needed.

The measure still requires the approval of the Senate, which is due to tackle the issue on Wednesday afternoon.

The state of emergency was introduced a week ago… allowing authorities to impose curfews, house arrests and searches and ban public gatherings.

After 12 days, an initial state of emergency has to be renewed by parliament.

On Monday night the violence was at its lowest point since near the start of the disturbances on October 27, with 215 cars burned and 71 people arrested.

Several curfews for unaccompanied children under 16, which were imposed under the state of emergency, were lifted Tuesday. However, curfews remain in force in 25 localities, mostly in the cities of Lyon and Nice.

French PM visits troubled areas

In a symbolic effort, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin made a televised surprise visit to Aulnay Sous Bois, one of the worst hit areas on Paris’s northern outskirts.

The prime minister met local residents, teachers and business leaders during the visit, his first to an area hit by rioting by youths who feel excluded from mainstream society.

“During our meeting this morning I heard a lot of people who really want to make progress, to get ahead, realise their projects, find a job. They should be helped,” Villepin said.

In Parliament, Villepin later said the unprecedented disorder justified extending emergency powers for three months.

“The situation remains serious in a great number of districts. We cannot accept that more than 200 cars burn each night,” he said.

Nearly three weeks of rioting had destroyed 8,500 vehicles and 100 public buildings. Some 2,800 people had been detained and 600 jailed, he said.