President Nicolas Sarkozy has ordered a study of the possible use of full-body scanners at French airports amid growing worldwide security concerns, the interior minister said Wednesday.

Mr. Sarkozy, at a meeting on airport security on Tuesday night, asked a working group to issue recommendations within a month about the scanners, Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said.

“The threat (of terrorism) is real” in France, Hortefeux told Europe-1 radio.

Many countries -- led by the United States -- have stepped up their airport security measures after a Nigerian man tried but failed to set off explosives in a Detroit-bound jetliner on Christmas Day.

French lawmakers discussed the scanners in 2008, but the idea of deploying them was dropped amid privacy concerns. Recent plans in countries including Britain to roll out the scanners are facing privacy worries too.

France has a watch list of seven “at risk” countries -- Afghanistan, Algeria, Mali, Iran, Pakistan, Yemen and Syria. Since Jan. 1, airlines that fly there must provide details about passengers or face the prospect of fines of up to euro50,000 ($72,000).

“Today, there are seven. We surely need to raise that to 20 or 30,” Mr. Hortefeux said.

He said France has enhanced airport security with initiatives like increased police and security squad patrols and body-frisking of U.S.-bound passengers since Christmas.


Sharper focus on security January 5, 2010

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