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French job contract row: Chirac calls for calm

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French job contract row: Chirac calls for calm


Police have been standing guard outside the Sorbonne University in Paris as the French president appealed for dialogue with student protesters. The government has stressed it is ready to talk with opponents of the new CPE, or first job contract, but is not prepared to back down on a measure designed to cut youth unemployment.

With more demonstrations planned tomorrow, Jacques Chirac wants calm: “I would like to appeal to everyone’s sense of responsibility. This demonstration must take place peacefully and respect everybody,” he said. At least 250,000 people took part in marches across France yesterday, and up to a million are expected on Saturday. Organisers say momentum is building against the drive to make strict labour laws more flexible. Over 180 people were arrested after confrontations between police and demonstrators last night. It is claimed the largely peaceful crowd was infiltrated by extremists looking for trouble. “This isn’t what we wanted, those people don’t belong to the movement, they don’t represent us. Most of them aren’t students and it isn’t normal to ransack a square,” said one young woman. One survey shows two thirds of French people support the demonstrators. But a man whose kiosk was damaged in the demonstration is not one of them. “It’s anarchy, the law of the street, there’s no government, no law. I’d like to leave France and go somewhere else,” he told reporters. The most controversial clause of the CPE allows employers to lay off staff without reason in the first two years. The contract can only be given to people under the age of 26. Youngsters say it is a threat to their future.
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