PARIS, Dec. 16 (UPI) -- The governing French conservative party plans to introduce a law banning the burqa or full-face Muslim veil, its legislative leader said Wednesday.
Jean-Francois Cope, parliamentary leader of the Union for a Popular Movement announced his intentions in an article in Le Figaro, the leading conservative newspaper, Radio France Internationale reported.
"The issue is not how many women wear the burqa," Cope said. "There are principles at stake: extremists are putting the republic to the test by promoting a practice that they know is contrary to the basic principles of our country."
The burqa, which conceals a woman's body except for the eyes and hands, is rarely seen in France. One intelligence report put the number of wearers at about 400, while the Interior Ministry estimate is a few thousand.
President Nicolas Sarkozy launched a national discussion last month of French identity.