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French Government Approves Emergency Curfew

As France assessed the damage after another night of violence, government ministers meeting in Paris Tuesday agreed to restore a 50-year-old law allowing regional authorities to impose curfews.

The legislation would allow regional prefects, or regional heads, to impose curfews if necessary. The 1955 law was first enacted during Algeria's war of liberation from France. Now France is fighting a very different war - against the violence in its low-income housing projects that boiled over almost two weeks ago.

The unrest began after the accidental electrocution of two youths of African origin outside Paris as they hid in a power station from police. Since then, arson attacks and clashes between ethnic immigrant youths and police have spread from the Paris suburbs to other parts of France and the French capital.

Police reported more than 1,100 vehicles were burned Monday night in the twelfth straight night of unrest, and four police were injured. Security forces also detained 330 people.

During an interview on television Monday night, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said 1,500 police officers would join 8,000 now deployed to restore order in troubled areas. And Mr. de Villepin announced a series of broad measures to address long-standing problems in the country's low income suburbs which are home to many ethnic immigrants.

Mr. de Villepin said the government would improve educational opportunities for disadvantaged youths, and offer apprenticeships to those who had dropped out of school or were facing major learning problems. Other new measures would include more merit scholarships, and job training and apprenticeships for youths as young as 14-years-old living in troubled neighborhoods.

Mr. de Villepin also vowed to restore budgets for social services in troubled areas that have been cut during since the center-right government came to power, in 2002.

Mr. de Villepin's law and order declarations were immediately denounced by some opposition leftist politicians for being repressive. Others criticized as discriminatory his plans to lower the age of apprenticeships for youths in immigrant-heavy areas.