French protesters issue job ultimatum
Half a million protesters took to the streets across France to demand the scrapping of a new law they fear will erode job security. Trade union and student leaders gave the government 48 hours to comply. Issuing their ultimatum on Saturday, the leaders said they might decide on a one-day general strike unless the government withdrew the law by Monday evening.

The leaders said Jacques Chirac, the French president, and Dominique de Villepin, the prime minister, would "bear full responsibility for social tensions that might follow" if they failed to meet the deadline. The marches were mostly festive and peaceful, but dozens of youths pelted police with missiles, set a car ablaze and smashed a shop window at the end of the main protest in Paris. Police cleared them from the Place de la Nation with many rounds of teargas. Scattered violence was also reported in Marseille, Rennes and Lille, where police also charged and teargassed crowds.

"This is an ultimatum," said Rene Valadon, confederal secretary of the Force Ouvriere union, after union and student leaders met following the third nationwide protest in six weeks. "The government and the president have 48 hours to decide."
Posted by: Fred 2006-03-19