But calls for peace in restive poor suburbs rang out on Friday from demonstrators in Paris to religious leaders at a Lyon-area mosque in the southeast.

There were isolated reports of violence in parts of France as the unrest continued for a 16th night on Friday.

With a state of emergency in force, several hundred people gathered at the glassy Wall of Peace near the Eiffel Tower to call for an end to the unrest that since 27 October spread from the Paris suburbs across the country.

The demonstration drew elderly Parisians and youths from the suburbs along with curious onlookers, all engaging in heated debate over how to stem the violence and tackle the causes.

Deep-rooted cause

The authorities have acknowledged that the roots of the problem are deep-seated. The woes include soaring unemployment, poverty and discrimination in the working class suburbs that ring the large cities of France.

Residents in Montpellier make a
silent march against the riots

"The violence of the last 15 days expresses the frustration of 30 years of denying recognition to the populations living in these neighbourhoods," said Hassan Ben M'Barek, a spokesman for Suburbs Respect, a group of associations that organised Friday's demonstration.

He asked President Jacques Chirac and the government to listen carefully to the youths, whose roots are in former French colonies of Africa, including Muslim North Africa, to better fight the "discrimination they suffer daily".

Arson attacks have declined in recent days. Police said overnight Thursday-Friday that 463 cars were torched, down from 482 the previous night.

The unrest has spiralled downward since France imposed a state of emergency on Wednesday that empowers regions to impose curfews and conduct house searches. Prefect Pierre Soubelet of the Landes region in the southwest ordered a curfew for minors on Friday night in certain towns, the sixth region to use the powers.

Security

The authorities bolstered security in Paris, deploying truckloads of riot police as Chirac rode in an open Jeep down the Champs-Elysees to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to mark Armistice Day, commemorating the end of the second world war.

Policemen on patrol in the
Champs Elysees in Paris

More than 700 police were brought into the capital to bolster security, raising the full deployment to 2220.

Paris police headquarters later banned any gatherings of "a nature that could provoke or encourage disorder".

"Messages distributed in the last few days over the internet and by text messaging have called for gatherings on 12 November in Paris and violent actions," a police statement said.