France's "burqa wars" have reached a crucial stage after French Prime Minister François Fillon last week asked the Council of State to help draft a law banning the Islamic veil, or burqa.

The prime minister's appeal to the administrative court of last resort, which also provides the government with legal advice, follows Wednesday's parliamentary commission report: after six months of hearings, it recommended a burqa ban in all public service facilities such as buses, hospitals and welfare offices.

The law reflects growing worries by the French public about the increasing visibility of Islam in French society. A recent poll revealed that 57% of the French favor a total ban on the burqa. So while Socialists have accused President Nicolas Sarkozy of using the issue to garner conservative votes ahead of the regional elections in March, the bill does have support from politicians throughout the political spectrum.

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