‘‘Qatar does business, not philanthropy,’’ Ambassador Mohamed Al-Kuwari told Metro, the free daily, in his country’s only reaction to the noisy controversy. ‘‘We have no political mission.’’
Whatever Qatar’s motives, experts say the emirate’s helping hand for the suburbs simply touches on France’s sensitivities about its place in the world as it struggles with its economic downturn and strives to remain a diplomatic power.
‘‘The symbol is very powerful,’’ said Karim Bitar, senior fellow at the Paris-based Institute for International and Strategic Relations. ‘‘Qatar has become the conjunction of all French fears.’’
Two French presidents tried to figure out how to deal with the Qatari offer, first conservative Nicolas Sarkozy and now socialist Francois Hollande — who last month confirmed the compromise of spreading the funds across all neglected regions.
‘‘Each time a nation wants to invest, we say very good, we'll do it together because we can tell you what is strategic, and what is not,’’ Hollande said in explaining his decision on France 24 TV.
The 10 officials looked to Qatar because of the glass ceiling that keeps most residents of the suburbs — stigmatized by their often Arabic names or even their addresses — from getting decent jobs let alone the financial backing for business ventures. French benefactors in the private sector simply aren’t there.
‘‘There are lots of people who want to succeed,’’ said Leghmara. ‘‘But they find themselves standing in front of closed doors.’’
Aneld has received pitches for hundreds of projects in need of funding, from high-tech enterprises to a literary cafe. Salim Benradhia’s plan for an affordable gourmet restaurant on a barge on the Seine is among them.
‘‘In the suburbs, we don’t always have access to Paris restaurants,’’ said Benradhia, a father of two in Clichy-Sous-Bois, where the 2005 riots ignited. ‘‘This would make a beautiful night out.’’
But the banks refused him a loan. Now Benradhia, like others, fears that if the state bank in charge of the project makes all the calls on funding, ‘‘we will once again be left on the sidelines.’’
Now, the local officials who traveled to Qatar fear they will be erased from the picture — along with their plan.
‘‘After all the work we did, we can talk about a hijacking’’ if the money doesn’t help the projects, said Aneld president Kamel Hamza. ‘‘It should (help) those who don’t necessarily come from the right families or don’t have anyone to guarantee a bank loan.’’
Figures representing France’s minorities say accepting Qatar’s generosity is just common sense.
‘‘Better money from Qatar than no money at all,’’ said Patrick Lozes, who helped found the Representative Council of Black Associations.
Brian Murphy in Dubai contributed to this report.
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