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Hollande Ups Anti-ISIS Diplomatic Effort; Discarded Explosive Belt Found


With Brussels in lockdown and police still searching for a presumed eighth attacker in the Paris terror assault, an explosive belt suspected of belonging to that man was found in a trashcan last night in Paris. France is still under high alert, and the French president has gone on a worldwide diplomatic offensive to try to strengthen the coalition against ISIS. We join NPR's Paris correspondent, Eleanor Beardsley. Eleanor, good morning.


WERTHEIMER: Could you tell us about Hollande? He's in Washington today. What's he want?

BEARDSLEY: Well, Hollande wants the U.S. to step up its game. Now, the U.S. is already conducting more than 80 percent of the strikes on ISIS. But Hollande wants President Obama and the U.S. to start thinking about an endgame. He wants to destroy ISIS. He's trying to build a bigger coalition to go further and with more intensity. He met with the British prime minister yesterday. He wants Britain to start bombing ISIS in Syria. And they need the British Parliament to pass that for it to happen. He's meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel tomorrow. He wants Germany to get involved. And he'll meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday. He wants Putin to join the coalition against ISIS as well. Also, Linda, yesterday, the French aircraft carrier the Charles de Gaulle arrived in waters off of Syria. France has stepped up its bombing of ISIS targets. It has tripled its capacity to strike the group now.

WERTHEIMER: And back in Paris, Eleanor, could you tell us about this suicide belt that police found in a trashcan?

BEARDSLEY: That's right, Linda. It was found in the south of Paris. Police are still examining it. They're not sure that it belonged to this missing eighth alleged suicide attacker. But Salah Abdelsalam's cell phone was last traced in this same area of Paris. Now, remember, he's the man that Brussels police are looking for right now. He's the most wanted man in Europe. And they believe that this vest may have belonged to him. His brother from Brussels told police that he believes his brother couldn't go through with the act and so threw his vest in the trashcan.

WERTHEIMER: Eleanor, we've been hearing quite a bit about the state of emergency in France and in Paris. There's an environmental conference. The conference on climate change is coming right up. There are numbers of world leaders coming, thousands of people coming. Is that going to take place?

BEARDSLEY: It's absolutely going to happen. President Hollande said that to cancel it would be to play right into the terrorists hands. And as you said, more than a hundred world leaders and 45,000 people are going to show up for it. They have canceled some public events. There was a march of civil society on the 29 of November. That's been canceled, many outdoor events where security can't be put in place. But the conference is going on. The security will be massive, but it is going on.

WERTHEIMER: Paris remains on high alert, a state of emergency in all of France. Is that changing life in Paris?

BEARDSLEY: Linda, what's changed for Parisians is there's security everywhere. I went in the post office yesterday. Bags were being searched. There's 10,000 French military around the country. And in Paris, there's nowhere you can go now where there's not military and police. It's also allowed French police to search homes and arrest people anytime they want. And there've been more than 300 searches in the Paris area since the attacks. You can see that cafes are not as full as they usually are. And tourists are canceling. The funerals are starting to take place around the country of the people killed. And just yesterday on my street, they put up all the Christmas decorations. And it's sort of sad because it doesn't really match the mood of the country.

WERTHEIMER: NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reporting from Paris. Eleanor, thank you very much.

BEARDSLEY: You're welcome, Linda. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.
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