French immigration curbs cause rift

June 23, 1993|By New York Times News Service

PARIS -- The conservative government of Edouard Balladur faced a damaging rift over its drive to clamp down on immigration after a leading Gaullist legislator suggested yesterday that perusing a foreign newspaper in the streets of Paris might be cause enough for the police to demand the identity papers of the reader.

Since March, Interior Minister Charles Pasqua has embarked on a policy he has called "zero immigration" in response to rapidly rising unemployment. His proposed legislation, including tighter controls on French citizenship and wider identity checks, has tried to tread a fine line some say falls just short of outright racism.

But an amendment approved last week to draft legislation on the conditions of entry and residence for foreigners in France appears to have overstepped the limit acceptable to centrist members of the government, prompting a sharp written protest to Mr. Balladur from Justice Minister Pierre Mehaignerie and Social Affairs Minister Simone Veil.

The disputed amendment, approved by 463-96 in the National Assembly, would allow the police to make identity checks on anyone whose behavior suggests that he is foreign.

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