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US criticises French race policy, WikiLeaks

Mikael Marguerie

The US has been scrutinising heavily-Muslim Parisian suburbs for years and is worried that the failure to integrate minorities into French society could spread radicalism and weaken a key ally, according to documents released by WikiLeaks.

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On Friday, French Finance Minister Eric Besson called on French servers to stop hosting WikiLeaks, but damage to France's reputation may have already been done.

The classified documents, first published in Le Monde, say that even if France does lead Europe in minority integration, the current situation is destabilising.

US diplomats showed remarkable prescience in a secret memo to Washington in August 2005, two months before riots by Muslim youth shook France for nearly two weeks.

“France not only has a problem with integration or immigration; it also needs to act to give Muslims a sense of French identity," it said.

In the aftermath of the rebellion, documents pointed to the uprising as proof of “the horrible reality and persistent failure in the integration of French minorities”.

In 2007, shortly before further riots led by impoverished minorities, the US tried to get involved in the integration process, even nominating two officers whose goal would be to “sensitise all levels of the French population to its own egalitarian ideals”.

“The real problem is the failure of white, Christian French to consider their dark-skinned and Muslim compatriots to be real citizens,” said the US ambassador to France under President George W Bush.

The WikiLeaks cables show that the Obama administration has not veered from the stance of the previous administration, with current ambassador Charles Rivkin quoted as saying earlier this year, "French institutions appear insufficiently flexible for a population that is growing more diverse."

A failure to integrate would lead to, the cables predicted, “a country that is weaker, more divided, more inclined to crises, divided against itself and by consequence a less-competent ally”.

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