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French press review 17 January 2014

Muslims doubt the neutrality of French troops in the CAR. France prepares to slim down its local government structures. Left and right debate what Hollande's spending cuts will mean. And a court rules that a man who's been in in a vegetative state for five years must be kept alive.

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We begin with Le Figaro’s coverage of the vicious cycle of violence going on in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic  (CAR). The paper reports that French troops were forced to step in to end an exchange of gunfire between Muslim and Christian militias that left seven people killed Wednesday in the north of the capital.

Five of the victims were Muslim and, according to the paper, the timely intervention of the French soldiers averted a reprisal attack by Islamist militias but it left Muslims believing that the French are siding with the Christians.

Libération runs a quote from recent remarks by the head of UN humanitarian operations in the Central African Republic, John Ging. He says there is no doubt in his mind that the armed groups operating in the country look determined to commit genocide.

Dossier: War in Mali

Le Figaro returned to the Malian town of Timbuktu, the fabled desert city of the 333 saints, to meet the team of Muslims who rescued the sacred manuscripts from destruction by al-Qaeda-backed militias who tried to create a brutal Islamic state in the north of the country.

Mohamed Alkady and Souleimane Maiga told the paper how they mounted late-night sorties into the Ahmed Baba Institute to rescue the 10th-century treasures from the destructive fury of the Islamic fundamentalists. The heros say only some 4,000 manuscripts were burned in the end, as they managed to take away boxes containing more than 10,000 precious works that had been preserved in dark rooms which the insurgents couldn’t reach. .

Libération takes up the raging debate here in France about the redrawing of the French administrative map in the wake of President François Hollande’s pledge to undertake a shock simplification therapy to cut public spending and reform the moribund economy. Let’s marry them, shouts Libé, talking about France’s regions, departments and communes, some dating back to Napoleon’s time.

While bonuses and incentives await the coalition of the willing, Le Figaro says that the Hollande fusion project is doomed as it faces strong opposition from his own political family with several Socialist leaders digging in for a fight.

Les Echos looks forward to tripartite labour talks opening in Paris today buoyed by Hollande’s offer of 50 billion euros in spending cuts and a 30-billion-euro reduction in corporate payroll charges. But the economic newspaper observes that while corporate leaders welcome Hollande’s "responsibility pact" and pledged in exchange to try to create a million jobs by 2017, the bosses' union Medef is asking for more drastic cuts in unemployment benefits.

The Communist Party newspaper l’Humanité can’t believe its ears. It points out that what is at stake is taking care of 53 per cent of the unemployed who do not receive any benefits at all.

A French court has refused to allow 38-year-old quadriplegic Vincent Lambert to die, writes Aujourd’hui en France. Lambert has been in a vegetative state since a road accident five years ago.

The doctors treating him, as well as his wife, wanted to cut off his intravenous feeding but his Catholic parents are against and took the matter to court. Le Figaro explains why the court in Chalons-en-Champagne, near Reims, ruled against ending Lambert’s life.

The case comes amid growing debate in France over legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide after several tragic end-of-life stories. A 2005 law in France legalises passive euthanasia, where a person causes death by withholding or withdrawing treatment that is necessary to maintain life.

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