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French protesters defy government calls for calm

French protesters defy government calls for calm
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Protests against President Nicolas Sarkozy’s unpopular pension reform in the French city of Lyon turned violent yesterday.

Police used tear gas to disperse some three hundred youths who had gathered in the central Bellecour square.

Elsewhere in Paris demonstrators broke a police barricade and blocked access to the capital’s main airport, Roissy-Charles de Gaulle, causing some flights to be cancelled.

Transport unions say protests also shut down Clermont-Ferrand airport and disrupted flights from Nice and Nantes.

Crowds also gathered outside the Senate in Paris to call on deputies to vote against the proposed raising of the retirement age to sixty two.

Sarkozy said the changes are necessary to plug a 32-billion-euro gap in the French state pension fund, which is forecast to grow to 80 billion by 2030 if no reforms are enacted.

The upper house of parliament was expected to vote on the text later today.