France's hardline immigration minister has launched a fresh demand to ban the burkha - decribed by president Nicolas Sarkozy a sign of 'subservience and debasement'.
Eric Besson said the Islamic full head and body covers were 'unacceptable' and not welcome in France.
His demand for a total ban comes after 58 French MPs called last June for a public inquiry on whether it should be illegal for women to hide their faces in public.
Mr Sarkozy backed the move, saying at the time: 'This garment makes women prisoners and deprives them of their identity.
'I say solemnly that they are not welcome on the territory of the French Republic.'
Women's rights groups and Left-wing MPs went even further, descibing the item as a 'walking coffin' and and a 'mobile prison'.
A burkha refers to a full-body covering worn largely in Afghanistan with only a mesh screen over the eyes, while a niqab is a full-body veil, often in black, with slits for the eyes.
France - home to Europe's largest five million Muslim population - already passed a law in 2004 forbidding students and staff from wearing veils and other religious symbols in schools as part of a drive to defend secularism.
Earlier this year Mr Besson said he though a law banning burkhas and niqabs would only 'create tensions'.
But he has now said he wants Islamic garments which cover the face - worn by an estimated 2,000 women in France - outlawed everywhere.
He said yesterday: 'I recognise that my views have now evolved.
'The burkha is unacceptable and contrary to the principles of national identity, of sexual equality and of the French Republic.'
Mr Besson said: 'The burkha is unacceptable and contrary to the principles of national identity, of sexual equality and of the French Republic'
Left-wing MP Andre Gerin, who is heading the government commission on burkhas and niqabs, added: 'We find it intolerable to see images of these imprisoned women when they come from Iran, Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia.
'They are totally unacceptable on the territory of the French Republic.'
The latest debate over the burkha comes after a French mother was last month banned from wearing a 'burkini' swimsuit at her local swimming pool.
Carole, a 35-year-old Muslim convert, was told by the manager of pool in Emerainville, near Paris, that the garment was 'inappropriate' on hygiene grounds.
The woman said she bought her burkini for £40 during a holiday in Dubai, adding: 'I was told that it would allow me the pleasure of bathing without showing off my body, which is what Islam recommends.'
She now intended to take her local council to court on the grounds that the ban was not a hygiene issue but a political issue.
In July, Al Qaeda terrorists vowed revenge on France if it banned the burkha on its streets.
Leaders of Al Qaeda's North African network wrote on an Islamic extremist website: 'French Muslims should react to this ban with the utmost hostility.
'We will seek dreadful revenge on France by all means at our disposal, for the honour of our daughters and sisters.'
The government inquiry in the legality of the burkha and niqab is due to reveal its findings next month.
Source: Mail Online