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Sarkozy aide warns of risk of social unrest
PARIS (Reuters) - A senior aide to French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned that countries risked seeing explosions of popular anger comparable with the riots seen in Greece unless governments provided some protection to industry.
Henri Guaino, one of Sarkozy's inner circle of advisers, told Le Monde that without some commonly agreed rules on reasonable levels of protection and government intervention more uncontrolled outbreaks of populism and xenophobia were likely.
"We should take this risk very seriously," he said in an interview which appeared on Tuesday.
He said the riots in Greece, strikes in Britain in protest against foreign temporary workers in the energy sector or anti-government protests in Iceland were an example of what could happen in other countries.
"This crisis is already going through all the chapters of an economics textbook. We should be careful that it doesn't also go through a history textbook as well," he said.
Guaino's comments come in the middle of a growing debate over the risks of protectionism in the world economy with France under fire over comments by Sarkozy criticising French carmakers which located factories in countries like the Czech Republic.
The government in Paris, still scarred by the memory of the riots that shook France's rundown urban "banlieues" in 2005, has been extremely wary of an outbreak of civil disturbance caused by economic discontent.
Weeks of protests over the cost of living in the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, a full part of France that sends deputies to the national parliament, has caused growing worry about a spillover to the metropolitan mainland.
Sarkozy is due to meet union leaders this week to discuss responses to the crisis after a strike last month that brought up to 2.5 million people to the streets of French cities to protest the government's handling of the economy.
Guaino denied that a 6 billion euro (5.3 billion pounds) aid package to the French car industry was protectionist, as critics have asserted but he said that the government had no choice but to act.
"Who, in the current circumstances, could let a sector that employs 10 percent of the active population, collapse?" he said.
(Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Jon Boyle)
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