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French MPs row over extending state of emergency after Nice attack

Soldiers from the French Foreign Legion patrol on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice after the attacks
Soldiers from the French Foreign Legion patrol on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice after the attacks Reuters/Eric Gaillard

France's right-wing opposition has laid into the Socialist government after the Nice truck attack that killed 84 people and injured 300, in stark contrast to the mood of national unity after last year's Charlie Hebdo and November Paris attacks. As parliament prepared to debate prolonging the state of emergency decreed then, former president Nicolas Sarkozy's Republicans threatened not to back the move unless 10 conditions were met.

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Still reeling from Prime Minister Manuel Valls being booed at Monday's tribute to the victims in Nice, several ministers on Tuesday afternoon said they were ready to accept the Republicans' proposal of a six-month extension of the state of emergency, instead of the three they initially proposed.

Some of the Republicans' suggestions are already law, according to government spokesman Stéphane Le Foll, but others could prove more difficult to compromise on, notably the proposal to place people suspected of "radicalisation" in retention centres.

"You can't lock people up on a suspicion or the suspicion of a suspicion," the minister responsible for relations with parliament, Jean-Marie Le Guen, commented.

Sarkozy calls for tough action

After refraining from comment in the immediate aftermath of the Nice slaughter, Sarkozy on Sunday criticised the government and called for tougher action.

Among his suggestions was a proposal to place individuals suspected of terrorist sympathies under house arrest or tag them with electronic bracelets or deport them if they are foreigners, which has already been ruled unconstitutional by the Council of State.

The right has called for a parliamentary inquiry into the handling of the attack.

Row on the right

Before making his comments Sarkozy visited Nice, attending a mass for the victims, but his putative rival for the mainstream-right candidate in next year's presidential election, Alain Juppé, did not wait that long.

Just hours after the attack Juppé, who is usually less aggressive on security questions than Sarkozy, declared that "if everything had been done" it "would not have taken place".

Sarkozy criticised the former prime minister for jumping the gun on Monday.

"The inquiry will say whether there have been failings," he commented. "We owe the victims respect and the dignity of political debate," going on to complain about a "game of pingpong between the government and the opposition".

That did not prvent him from declaring that the existing "measures are totally inadequate" and calling for a "war without mercy on poilitical Islam".

Nice mayor, Marine Le Pen slam government

Another vocal and rapid critic of the government was Nice mayor Christian Estrosi, also a member of the Republicans.

He claimed that there were not enough members of the national police force in his city on Bastille Day, a claim that Prime Minister Manuel Valls disputed and dubbed "unacceptable".

"Allowing ourselves to be divided is playing the terrorists' game and I will never make them present," he said on Tuesday.

The leader of the far-right National Front Marine Le Pen did not refrain from joining the debate either.

She slammed not only the government but also the Republicans, calling on Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve to resign and accusing Sarkozy of cutting the police force while he was in power.

She repeated her calls for a return of national service, stripping dual nationals found guilty of terror offences of French nationality and a restoration of national borders, in defiance of the European Union.

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