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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

French PM to skip climate meeting to focus on riot

The environment minister will take the place of Edouard Philippe at the COP24 conference

France's prime minister has cancelled a planned trip to a major environmental conference in Poland on Sunday in the wake of his country's worst urban violence in more than a decade.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe's office said he will send the environment minister, Francois de Rugy, in his place to the COP24 conference in Katowice, Poland.

The cancellation came after violent "yellow jacket" protests engulfed Paris, with protesters tagging the Arc de Triomphe with multi-coloured graffiti, overturning and torching cars and ransacking stores. Protesters are angry over rising taxes.

France's interior minister says police were not able to keep protesters from damaging the Arc de Triomphe monument in Paris or spraying it with graffiti.

Christophe Castaner, speaking on French television TF1, said "while some (protesters) invaded the Arc de Triomphe, our police forces were protecting other protesters and bystanders."

French television showed images of protesters inside the famous monument, spraying graffiti and taking selfies.

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Mr Castaner said troublemakers were mixing in with ordinary protesters, called "yellow jackets" for their fluorescent vests. He urged protesters not to take part in violence.

Earlier on Saturday, Mr Macron said that scenes of “chaos” were not representative of the “legitimate anger” roiling France. He refused though to answer questions over his response to the protests that have left swathes of Paris with burned cars, shattered shop windows and graffiti tags on the Arc de Triomphe.

“What has happened in Paris today is not the pacific expression of a legitimate anger,” Macron said in opening remarks at a news conference at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires. “The culprits of those violent acts don’t want change, don’t seek improvement, they want chaos.” He refused to answer questions on the matter.