Excerpt:

The two leading contenders to be the mainstream right's candidate in next year's French presidential election have clashed over France's relations with its Muslim population. After former president Nicolas Sarkozy denounced the "tyranny of minorities" in a speech last week, his chief rival, Alain Juppé, warned that judging Islam incompatible with the nation's values would lead to civil war.

Although Sarkozy has not yet officially declared his candidacy, few doubt that he will stand in the forthcoming primary of his Republicans party and the press judged a speech he made in northern France last week to be a key step in his campaign.

"In the years ahead what will be left of France?" he asked a hall that was only half full, although with some 40 MPs in attendance. "That's the first challenge. The greatest. The most fundamental."


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