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France

French press review 30 January 2013

media

Lynch-mobs are out in north Mali as French and Malian troops advance. But where did the Islamists go and will they be back? The French parliament debates good and bad banking.

Mali makes the front pages of both Catholic La Croix and left-leaning Libération. Both papers look at the hard part of the job, which will be consolidating the territorial gains made against the various Islamist, Tuareg and armed criminal elements who've made northern Mali their stomping ground over the past 10 months.

Dossier: War in Mali

Libération reports from the recently liberated town of Gao where local lynch-mobs have been rounding up anybody of Arab or Tuareg appearence on suspicion that they might be former members of the now vanished Unity and Jihad Movement (Mujao). Arab businesses have also been looted and it's fairly clear that a certain number of accounts are being settled against the  background of relief felt by most residents of Gao.

La Croix's headline reads "Timbuktu wakes up looking for revenge," with the same sad parade of looters and/or concerned citizens collecting outside Arab-owned shops.

For Romano Prodi, former president of the European Commission, now the UN special representative in the Sahel, the crucial thing now is to organise elections rapidly so that Bamako can, once again, take at least nominal control of the entire national territory.

The problem, of course, is that there was no war. The Islamists have not been defeated. They have simply evaporated. But they'll be back.

Business daily Les Echos gives pride of place to French efforts to sort out the banking sector.

Today deputies at the National Assembly will begin examining the law which will divide French banks in two, separating the "normal" banking functions like borrowing and lending from their speculative activities like losing small fortunes on the stock market.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

The problem is that, when they're not losing it hand over fist, the banks make a lot of money from their investment efforts and it is exactly that side of the business which attracts the hedge funds, the financial predators who bet on the success or failure of other financial institutions. If the new law causes the hedge fund operators to desert the French banking sector, that crucial sector could lose up to 20 per cent of its value.

Expect the new law to be very carefully debated, and probably much amended.

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