French will not have to declare guests

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The French government yesterday backed down before the massed ranks of the country's artists and intellectuals and announced two changes to a proposed immigration law.

It remained unclear, however, whether it had done enough to quell the protests which are, in any case, aimed partly at the rise of the ultra- right French National Front. A large march against the new law - led by film directors, writers and actors - will take place in Paris on Saturday.

The principal objection of the protesters is a clause in the immigration law which would toughen an existing requirement for certain foreign visitors to obtain a "lodging certificate" before entering France. Under the original proposal, a local mayor would have had discretion to block the certificates and French hosts would have to alert the authorities when their guests leave.

The objectors, led by artists such as the cinema director Bertrand Tavernier, and actress Catherine Deneuve, threatened to break the new law. They said it would turn France into a nation of anti-immigrant informers.

Under two alternative government amendments tabled yesterday, responsibility for administering the documents would pass to the prefects - the principal national government officers in each department. More significantly, it would be left to the visitors themselves to inform the authorities when they departed.

This shift in policy is not entirely the result of the protests.Aspects of the new law were almost certain to be declared unconstitutional by the Conseil d'Etat, the country's constitutional watchdog.

The protesters have made it clear that they are motivated, in part, by the recent poll success of the National Front. They said yesterday that the proposed amendments were not adequate calling for the complete withdrawal of the new law.