French rioters offer a price for calm

French rioters last night called for the scalp of the French interior minister as the price for ending 10 nights of disturbances.

As France's prime minster summoned key ministers to a crisis meeting to determine a political response to the riots that have spread from Paris to other cities, the young immigrant-descended rioters began to show signs of organising via mobile phone and internet sites.

Their target is interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy, whose hard-line rhetoric has become the focus for much of the anger that has set the socially ignored suburbs alight each night.

"Now we are the ones chasing you with a hose," declared one weblog referring to Sarkozy's promise to cleanse the streets of scum. With insurance companies estimating the damage at more than £4.6 million so far, France braced itself for another night of destruction.

On Friday night nearly 900 vehicles were torched and police made more than 250 arrests, some of them teenagers caught with firebombs. Aware that the world's media is now waiting for the next act in the drama, the rioters know their challenge to authority is beginning to have an effect.

Sarkozy's ambition to be a presidential candidate, bolstered by his tough law and order stance, has now been tarnished by his inflammatory comments. He is likely to get little political support from his prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, his chief rival for the presidential nomination.