PARIS -- The world's first ban on Islamic face veils took effect yesterday in France, meaning women may bare their breasts in Cannes but not cover their faces on the Champs-Élysées.

Two veiled women were hauled off from a Paris protest within hours of the new ban. While some see encroaching Islamophobia in the new ban, President Nicolas Sarkozy's government defended it as a rampart protecting France's identity against inequality and extremism. Police grumbled that it will be hard to enforce.

The law affects barely 2,000 women who cloak themselves in the niqab, which has just a slit for the eyes, and the burqa, which has a mesh screen over the eyes, and it enjoyed widespread public support when it was passed last year.

-- AP

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