Clash over DNA tests for immigrants exposes strain within Sarkozy team

FRENCH prime minister François Fillon sought to calm unrest within the centre-right government yesterday after a cabinet minister suggested members of parliament were exploiting immigration for political ends.

The secretary of state for towns, Fadela Amara, who is of Algerian origin, is a left-wing sympathiser and was brought into the government as part of a drive by the president, Nicolas Sarkozy, to draw on talent from across the political spectrum.

Some Sarkozy allies denounced Ms Amara when she attacked a draft law that would allow DNA tests to verify immigrants' family ties.

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"People have had enough of immigration being exploited. I find that disgusting," Ms Amara said on Tuesday.

Mr Fillon called her in for talks yesterday, saying he had confidence in her, but also telling her to tone down her comments.

Commentators said the debate highlighted problems in Mr Sarkozy's government.

"Today, there is a slight impression that this pretty confection is blowing apart," the left-leaning paper Liberation said.

"In a few well-chosen words, Fadela Amara has pointed to the limits of openness, reminding us in her way that on some issues, notably on immigration, the left-right divide still exists in our country."

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