France's opposition Socialists present bill limiting Islamic veils, softer than Sarkozy's

PARIS (AP) — France's opposition Socialists have presented a bill that would ban Islamic face veils in places such as hospitals and banks.

The bill could complicate President Nicolas Sarkozy's efforts for a full-out ban. Sarkozy says such veils oppress women, and he has ordered the conservative government to draft a bill outlawing full veils in public.

Jean-Marc Ayrault, who heads the Socialists in the French National Assembly, says "a general ban will be extremely difficult to apply."

He outlined a bill Tuesday that would ban face veils such as the niqab or burqa in certain places, including government buildings, hospitals, public transport and banks.

France has western Europe's largest Muslim population, but only a small minority of French women wear full veils.