The decision by a handful of French mayors to ban the Islamic burkini swimsuit has divided the country and shocked its neighbours, with critics seeing the prohibitions as profoundly discriminatory.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Manuel Valls waded into the debate, saying the garment was "not compatible with the values of France and the Republic" and that he supported towns that banned it.

The remarks by the Socialist premier propelled the latest row over the place of Islam in France from the beaches onto the political front benches.

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