Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said on Thursday Paris should open a seminary to train imams to fight the spread of "Islamic fundamentalism".

He added there ought to be "a training institute for the imams of France, who speak French, who are imbued with our culture".

Sarkozy was the driving force behind the creation this year of a council to better integrate France's five million Muslims into society.

Secular state

He said two thirds of the 889 imams in France live on welfare and more than 60% do not speak French.

In April, French Muslim groups elected a French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) to foster a better understanding of Islam in the staunchly secular state.

Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin told the CFCM he expected it to be the "enlightened voice of Islam" and to combat threats to the country's social cohesion.

Many of France's five million
Muslims feel disenfranchised

French security officials say they see "radical Islam" as one of the major threats to the French state.

The CFCM council is headed by Dalil Boubakeur, head of the moderate Grand Mosque of Paris which is favoured by the government.

Discrimination

But his group only came third in last April's voting, behind the more independent Union of Islamic Organisations in France.

The group, whose doctrines are close to the Muslim Brotherhood, has gained ground in recent years among France's Muslims.

Many of the country's Muslims have rediscovered their Islamic values in recent years.

They complain of being discriminated against by the French government and have reported rising cases of Islamophobia.