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French Minister Calls for Compromise on Employment Contract
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French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy called again on Monday for compromise over the controversial First Employment Contract (CPE) law bill sponsored by French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and the time to resume dialogue.

At a rally in the northern industrial town of Douai, seen as his first presidential hopeful speech, Sarkozy called for suspension of the application of the CPE, saying "Social dialogue is an essential condition to the success of all reform".

"Before all application initiative, we'll take the time that negotiations end up in order to avoid unprofitable oppositions ..." he said just ahead the national strikes called by French major trade unions, according to whom, 135 protests would be held across the country on Tuesday.

On Saturday Sarkozy called for "compromise" at a meeting of his party after warning Friday that the demonstration was "taking on anew aspect" with the involvement of growing numbers of opportunist vandals.

Across the country police have made 1,420 arrests since the start of the trouble, and 453 people have been injured -- more than half of them police.

Two weeks of protests against the CPE and four days of national strikes have led to serious disturbances in 60 of the country's 84 universities and some 25 percent of the country's 4,370 high schools.

Half of metro trains and two-third high-speed trains were to be disrupted on Tuesday, the fifth day of national strikes against the CPE.

The French parliament adopted the CPE two weeks ago, which, sponsored by Villepin, encourages employers to hire young people under 26, with an open-ended two-year contract that could be terminated without explanation.

This week is decisive for the fate of the CPE: before the law would be constitutionalized by the constitutional council on Thursday and theoretically promulgated by French President Jacques Chirac on Friday. Villepin was to meet some trade union leaders for a new round of discussion on Wednesday.

Opponents have said the law infringes on workers' rights, making it harder for young people to get long-term employment.

An Ipsos opinion poll published Monday by the French daily Le Monde and France 2 television showed that 63 percent of the French population are against the CPE.

(Xinhua News Agency March 28, 2006)

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