Too many foreigners in France, Sarkozy says

PARIS -- French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said there are too many foreigners in France and the system for integrating them is working "increasingly badly".
Nicolas Sarkozy (Tanjug, file)
Nicolas Sarkozy (Tanjug, file)
In a TV debate, Sarkozy defended his plan to almost halve the number of new arrivals if re-elected next month, AFP has reported.
Sarkozy, whose father was a Hungarian immigrant, believes that while immigration could be a boon for France, it needed to be controlled more tightly through tougher qualification rules for residency, BBC says. 

He also said he wanted to restrict some benefit payments to immigrants who had been in the country for ten years. 

Sarkozy is trailing in the opinion polls behind the Socialist candidate Francois Hollande. He is also competing for conservative voters with the far-right National Front party led by Marine le Pen. 

He has often made controversial comments on race and immigration issues, sharply dividing opinion in France. 

In 2005, just before the Paris riots, he described young delinquents in the Paris suburbs as "racaille", meaning rabble. 

Sarkozy has already pushed through tough new immigration rules, including the controversial deportation of Roma. 

On Tuesday, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon caused dismay among Muslim and Jewish groups by suggesting the religious slaughter of animals was out of date. 

The controversy started when a TV documentary said last month that all the abattoirs in Paris region only produced halal meat, BBC writes. 

Sarkozy said Tuesday he hoped his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama would be returned to office in this year's election. 

In a television interview, he said that he hoped to launch a French initiative to bring peace to the Middle East if he is re-elected in May, and expressed the hope that Obama would be able to do the same. 

"I regret that Europe has not been more determined," he said, referring to the stalled international attempts to revive the frozen peace process between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors, AFP has reported. 

"There is also a presidential election in the U.S. President Obama, who is a very great president, won't take the initiative before he's re-elected, and I hope he will be, but there's a place for France," Sarkozy added. 

The first round of voting in France will be held on April 22 and candidates probably face a run-off on May 6 and U.S. presidential election will be held in November.