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Old Mar 27th, 2003, 04:23 PM        AP Report: Racist violence explodes in France in 2002
Report: Racist violence explodes in France in 2002

By NATHALIE SCHUCK, Associated Press Writer

PARIS - Violent racist attacks quadrupled in France in 2002 to the highest level in a decade, and more than half of the assaults were aimed at Jews, a national report said Thursday.



Assailants carried out 313 acts of racist violence last year, compared to 71 in 2001, according to a report by the independent National Consulting Committee on Human Rights.


Accepting the report, Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said he was worried the war in Iraq (news - web sites) would cause religious tensions in France to surge.


"We must prevent international tensions from transferring to our national community," he said. The war could "traumatize" some people, he said, adding that a victory by the U.S.-led coalition was expected to be less painful than it has proved.


"We were expecting a technological war, a quick war, a 21st century war, and we have discovered a war that is among the most horrible, like those of the 20th century," he said.


In the report, the committee said 193 of 313 attacks were against Jews and noted a "real explosion" in anti-Semitic violence. Last year, the group reported 32 acts of anti-Jewish violence.


The committee said increased anti-Semitic attacks came against a backdrop of fighting between Israel and the Palestinians, and added that many of the attackers came from rough neighborhoods on the outskirts of France's cities.


In the last two years, France has suffered a wave of violence against Jewish schools, temples and cemeteries that coincided with new fighting in the Middle East.


The violence, which peaked a year ago when a Marseille synagogue was burned to the ground, has markedly decreased. But Muslim-Jewish relations remain tense. France has the largest Jewish community in western Europe and one of the continent's biggest Muslim populations.


France's large North African community was also targeted in racist violence.


Of 47 attacks against them, 25 of those were attributed to the extreme-right. One person of North African origin was killed — the only death mentioned in the report. The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks stirred anti-Muslim sentiment, the report said.


Violence by France's far-right groups dropped in 2002. Nine percent of the reported attacks were blamed on the far right, compared to 14 percent in 2001, the report said.


The group also tallied 992 nonviolent but racist acts — such as threats or graffiti — in 2002, compared to 350 in 2001.
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