Obama, Hollande vow ‘unwavering commitment’ against ISIS

U.S. President Barack Obama disembarks Air Force One after arriving at Antalya International Airport in Antalya, Turkey, for the G20 summit Sunday. | REUTERS/Okan Ozer/Pool


MANILA/PARIS – President Barack Obama spoke by telephone to French President Francois Hollande on Thursday about the investigation into last week’s Paris attacks, and the two leaders reiterated their “unwavering commitment to degrade and destroy” Islamic State, the White House said.

The two leaders will meet at the White House next week, when they “will engage in discussions on the way forward to defeat ISIL (Islamic State), help to bring to an end the conflict in Syria, and to ensure we are doing all we can to safeguard our citizens from the threat of terrorism,” according to a White House statement released early on Friday.

Obama called Hollande while visiting Manila at the end of an Asia-Pacific summit.

French Assembly extends state of emergency

Meanwhile, France’s lower house of parliament extended a state of emergency imposed after attacks in Paris for three months on Thursday and toughened a series of security measures which date back to 1955.

France imposed the state of emergency on Saturday, a day after the attacks killed 129 people in the capital, giving police extended powers to search and detain suspects.

Lawmakers in the National Assembly approved amendments to the state of emergency law introduced during the Algerian war of independence by 551 votes to six. It is due to go before the Senate for debate and approval on Friday.

“This is the fast response of a democracy faced with barbarism. This is the effective legal response in the face of an ideology of chaos,” Prime Minister Emmanuel Valls told parliament.

Valls said the measures were “modern and effective tools to fight the terrorist threat”.

Under the state of emergency, police have the power to conduct searches without getting judicial warrants, though they cannot search the homes and offices of parliamentarians, journalists or lawyers.

The new measures mean anyone suspected of posing a threat to security can be placed under house arrest for 12 hours a day to restrict their movement. Even if the house arrest is lifted, suspects can be prevented from meeting others deemed a threat.

Electronic tagging can also be used to ensure suspects under house arrest who are particularly dangerous remain confined.

The authorities have the power to block Internet sites deemed to incite or advocate “acts of terrorism”, public demonstrations are banned and groups inciting acts that could seriously affect public order can be dissolved.

Rights campaign group Amnesty International said the emergency measures must not become permanent fixtures.

“Time and again we have seen emergency measures extended and codified until they become part and parcel of the ordinary law, chipping steadily away at human rights,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s director for Europe and Central Asia.

“In the long run, the pernicious ideology underpinning the Paris attacks can only be defeated by upholding the foundational values of the French Republic,” he said in a statement.

A gathering planned for Friday in front of the Central Mosque in Paris was canceled after discussions with police.

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