French government authorizes curfews

The French Cabinet on Tuesday decided to authorize local officials to impose curfews under a state of emergency law to halt riots, the interior minister said. Among other powers, police will be able to conduct raids if they suspect weapons are being stockpiled, Nicolas Sarkozy added. "We will now be able to act in a preventative manner to avoid these incidents," Sarkozy said. "The policy of the government is firm, levelheaded and measured." There were no immediate details on where or how curfews might be imposed or how long they might last. Sarkozy said the Cabinet agreed "in principle" to invoke a state of emergency law to allow local officials to impose curfews. "We now have the possibility to be even more effective," Sarkozy said. The plan to allow curfews to halt riots that have spread across France was first announced by Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin on Monday night. He said the government would invoke a 1955 law that allows the declaring of a state of emergency in all or parts of France. The Cabinet met in special session Tuesday to put the plan into effect. Only the Cabinet can declare a state of emergency, which can initially last only 12 days. Parliament must vote on any extension beyond that. "I confirm to you that the decision in principal was taken," Sarkozy told reporters after the Cabinet meeting. He was to meet with local officials Tuesday afternoon to study how to put the measures into effect. "For a period of 12 days, raids will be possible every time that we have a suspicion of a stockpiling of weapons," he said. It was unclear what type of weapons Sarkozy was referring to and whether he meant gasoline-bombs or more deadly arms.