Friday, November 4, 2005 Posted: 0902 GMT (1702 HKT)

PARIS, France -- Rioting erupted for an eighth straight night in the impoverished suburbs of Paris, with angry youths setting fire to a school, a bus depot, two textile warehouses and more than 150 vehicles.

Although the unrest Thursday and early Friday was less intense than in previous nights, the disturbances spread outside the Paris region for the first time.

Youths torched cars in Dijon, Rouen and the Bouches-du-Rhone area dominated by Marseille, Reuters reported.

In the Seine-Saint-Denis region to the east of the capital, youths fired buckshot at riot police vehicles in Neuilly-sur-Marne, The Associated Press quoted the area's top official, Prefect Jean-Francois Cordet, as saying.

A group of 30 to 40 youths harassed police near a synagogue further east in Stains, Cordet said.

The latest violence flared despite the presence of about 1,000 riot police, and despite hopes that festivities marking the end of Ramadan would calm tensions.

Many of the rioters are Muslims of North African origin -- immigrants as well as locally born French citizens weary of poverty, unemployment and discrimination.

The rioting began last Thursday after two teenagers were accidentally electrocuted and a third was injured while apparently trying to escape from police by hiding in a power substation. Officials have said police were not chasing the boys.

The Interior Ministry released a preliminary report Thursday exonerating officers of any direct role in the teenagers' deaths, according to AP.

Ministers are under growing pressure to deal with the unrest that has broken out in at least 20 impoverished towns north and east of the French capital, home to many North African immigrants.

The pressure is on
A police union official proposed establishing a curfew and bringing in the military to help handle the rioting, while some members of the opposition Socialist Party have suggested the police should withdraw from the communities to quell the unrest.

Police have so far made 143 arrests, AP quoted Interior Ministry Nicolas Sarkozy as saying.

The violence adds to the pressure on Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, who cancelled a trip to Canada to tackle the situation and soothe a public row between his ministers over the government's response.

Vowing to restore order, de Villepin on Thursday called a series of emergency meetings with officials throughout the day, including a working lunch with Sarkozy.

"I will not accept organized gangs making the law in some neighborhoods. I will not accept having crime networks and drug trafficking profiting from disorder," Villepin said at the Senate in between emergency meetings.

The situation has sparked a war of words between de Villepin and Sarkozy, his political rival ahead of 2007 presidential elections.

Speaking to parliament Wednesday, de Villepin demanded punishment for lawbreakers but used calmer language than that used by Sarkozy, who has been criticized for calling the protesting youths "scum."

"Let's avoid stigmatizing areas .... let's treat petty crime differently to major crime, let's fight all discrimination with firmness, and avoid confusing a disruptive minority with the vast majority of youngsters who want to integrate into society and succeed," he said.

Earlier Wednesday, President Jacques Chirac called for calm, adding that "the absence of dialogue and an escalation of a lack of respect will lead to a dangerous situation."

"Zones without law cannot exist in the republic," Chirac said.

All but forgotten
In some areas, unemployment runs as high as 20 percent -- more than twice the national average, de Villepin told lawmakers.

Jean-Louis Borloo, minister for social cohesion, said officials need to react "firmly" to the unrest but that France also must acknowledge its failure to deal with decades of simmering anger in the impoverished suburbs of Paris.

"We cannot hide the truth: that for 30 years we have not done enough," he told France-2 television, AP reported.

Borloo also urged people not to have a one-sided view of the suburbs.

"One must not think for one second that this is the life of these neighborhoods," Reuters quoted him as saying.

"They are an integral part of our country. It is in these neighborhoods that most companies are being founded."

CNN's Chris Burns and Jim Bittermann contributed to this report