In the aftermath of a killing spree that shocked the nation, France's Paris-based politicians and national media are deep in debate about its impact on the upcoming presidential election and the need for tighter security.

In the drab Toulouse suburbs where gunman Mohamed Merah killed seven people before being cut down by police commandos, the talk is more of bubbling tensions between ethnic and religious communities and how solutions are nowhere in sight.

The gap is not just between the capital to the north and Toulouse in the southwest. In the gritty outskirts of Paris, within sight of the Eiffel Tower, an "us and them" mentality still haunts the streets rocked by immigrant riots in 2005.

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