Paris terror attacks

French PM warns of risk of chemical attack

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls speaking during a debate to extend a state of emergency, at the National Assembly in Paris, France, yesterday, as French National Assembly president Claude Bartolone (top, left) listens.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls speaking during a debate to extend a state of emergency, at the National Assembly in Paris, France, yesterday, as French National Assembly president Claude Bartolone (top, left) listens.PHOTO: REUTERS

France still faces many dangers, he says, as lawmakers extend state of emergency

PARIS • Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned yesterday that France was at risk of a chemical or biological weapons attack, as lawmakers voted to extend a state of emergency imposed after the Paris carnage.

Mr Valls warned of the dangers still faced by France as he opened a parliamentary debate that later saw lawmakers extend an extraordinary package of security measures for three months.

"We must not rule anything out," he said. "There is also the risk from chemical or biological weapons."

He also called on France's European Union partners to urgently adopt measures to share airline passenger information.

"More than ever, it's time for Europe to adopt the text... to guarantee the traceability of movements, including within the union. It's a condition of our collective security," Mr Valls said.

The state of emergency will be in place for three months from Nov 26 after lawmakers approved the extension.

French lawmakers also voted to allow the government to block websites and social media accounts promoting or inciting terrorist acts. Mr Valls praised the "wisdom" of lawmakers who agreed on the measure.

Under one of the measures being adopted in France, police officers will be allowed to carry weapons when they are off duty.

Officers will be allowed to use their guns in the event of an attack providing they wear a police armband to avoid "any confusion", according to a directive seen by Agence France-Presse.

Citing security fears, the government has also cancelled two mass rallies planned for Nov 29 and Dec 12 - the days before and after a key United Nations climate summit in Paris.

In a separate measure, EU countries plan a crackdown on virtual currencies and anonymous payments made online and via pre-paid cards in a bid to tackle terrorism financing, a draft document seen by Reuters said.

EU interior and justice ministers will gather in Brussels today for a crisis meeting and they will urge the European Commission, the EU executive arm, to propose measures to "strengthen controls of non-banking payment methods such as electronic/anonymous payments and virtual currencies and transfers of gold, precious metals, by pre-paid cards", draft conclusions of the meeting said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 20, 2015, with the headline 'French PM warns of risk of chemical attack'. Print Edition | Subscribe