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France: Qatar backtracks, no direct aid to suburbs
Qatar has backtracked on its controversial proposal to finance entrepreneurs from France's underprivileged suburbs, a scheme that provoked a raft of criticism in France. The oil-rich Persian Gulf Emirate, which is increasing its investments in France, announced a 50 million euro package last December to finance schemes designed by inhabitants of the suburbs of France's major cities. But following the election as President of the Socialist François Hollande, Doha has agreed to review its decision.
The 50 million euro fund remains, but will be used to finance small and medium-sized enterprises that will not be directly selected, but rather chosen from a wide pool of projects drawn up by the French government. "The fund is available to the French authorities", according to sources close to the Qatari Prime Minister, Hamad Ben Jassem Al-Thani, who during his recent visit to the Elysée at the start of the month discussed the issue with President Hollande. The Doha initiative prompted a barrage of criticism, beginning with that of the leader of the far-right National Front party, Marine Le Pen, who pointed the finger at an announcement that she claimed was designed to develop "Muslim fundamentalism". Meanwhile, other more moderate sections of the political sphere spoke only of meddling in a sector usually under the jurisdiction of the state such as that of urban policies.
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