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Violence up in france

PARIS, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- Delinquency rates dropped slightly in France last year even as the number of violent incidents mounted.

Published Thursday, the new Interior Ministry statistics reflect a worrying rise of violence against others in France -- particularly during three weeks of riots last fall.

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More broadly, however, they are being closely monitored as the man who presides over the ministry, Nicholas Sarkozy, is considered a leading candidate for the 2007 presidential elections.

If he runs on the center-right ticket, as many predict, they will amount to one marker of his political performance.

The French Ministry reported an overall 1.3 percent drop in crime and delinquency last year, compared to 2003. But the number of violent incidents committed against other individuals rose to 5,000 last year.

More than 45,000 vehicles were torched last year, according to the report. That includes an estimated 10,000 incinerations during the riots that swept France last October and November.

The unrest was largely blamed on ethnic-immigrant youths.

During his New Year's wishes to the media Thursday, Sarkozy touched on the statistics as he vowed to cut delinquency by 3 percent for 2006. He also outlined other goals, including tweaking the country's immigration law to meet France's economic needs.

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Sarkozy also called for more illegal immigrants to be deported. Such tough approaches appear to appeal to French voters, following the fall violence.

A poll published by Le Monde newspaper last month found one in six French believe the country has too many immigrants.

The head of the country's governing Union for a Popular Movement Party, Sarkozy is a popular politician in France. His chief rival, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, is reportedly mulling a presidential bid as well.

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