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Swedish PM slams French government over riots

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15:56 CET+01:00
Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson has criticised the way the French government has handled the unrest in the country.

"They have chosen a confrontational route and it is hard to see how it will become a dialogue," he said.

Persson reserved his strongest criticism for France's interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, who described the rioters as racaille, or 'rabble'.

"I'm surprised by the choice of words, at the start and as things went on. There is an implacability in the attitude towards the situation and I don't think it will lead to a dialogue," said Persson.

"There is justifiable criticism of French society and you don't confront this with the sort of expression Sarkozy used," he continued to a group of journalists in Stockholm on Wednesday.

The Prime Minister said that he was not willing to review the French government's method of handling the unrest, but at the same time criticised the decision to send in a powerful police presence and to introduce a state of emergency:

"It's clear that if you resort to emergency legislation then it's naturally very dramatic, the like of which I haven't seen in Europe in the last 30-40 years. It feels like a very hard and confrontational approach."

Persson said he sees what is happening in France as a warning to the rest of Europe of the tensions that are built up as a consequence of poor integration policies and lingering unemployment since the slump of the 1990s.

"It does not mean that the rest of us should think we don't have a problem, that would be far too arrogant," he said.

"But obviously a simple thing like the fact that young people in France do not have the option of a study loan means that a great many are shut out from what, today, is necessary for moving on in society, namely further education."

However, he said that the Liberal Party's warning that the same thing could also happen in Sweden was "unnecessary".

"Rather than being in any way self-righteous, we should be vigilant, so such warnings are not needed. The vast majority recognise that this is a serious situation," he said.

Persson also rejected the idea of more local police as a "first step" in Sweden.

"It could be a method that works, but I don't believe that's the way we would choose in Sweden. For us it is about working on the opportunities for education. To start sending out signals about strengthening the police is to break with the political line we have chosen to follow," he said.

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