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France to set up air protection zones

AFP - France is to set up air protection zones around major cities and sensitive sites such as nuclear plants because of the threat of terrorist attack, Defence Minister Alain Richard said.

Richard told LCI television the installations would be defended from suicide hijackers such as those that struck in New York and Washington last month "by the speed with which our aircraft will intervene."

Included in the scheme would be "nuclear plants ... major dams, large-scale industrial installations and our greater urban areas," he said.

Yesterday, the defence ministry said that after a study commissioned by Prime Minister Lionel Jospin it had been decided to use the armed forces to protect a number of sites.

"These measures stem from the principle of precaution and are not in any way a reaction to an established threat," it said in a statement.

Ouest-France reported in today's edition that ground-to-air missiles are to be deployed around a number of sensitive locations including the nuclear reprocessing plant at La Hague in Normandy, northwestern France.

-- Martin Thompson (, October 18, 2001

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