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    State Dept. Warns of Violence in France

    Monday, March 27, 2006
    WASHINGTON -- Three days before a visit to Paris by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the State Department warned Americans of violent protests in France and advised travelers to avoid city crowds.

    The security alert Monday advised Americans traveling or living in France to "avoid areas where crowds are expected to gather" and use caution because of sometimes violent demonstrations in Paris and other large cities over a divisive youth jobs law.

     Secretary of State Rice speaks at the signing of the Millennium Challenge Compact between the United States and the Republic of Armenia at the State Department in Washington, Monday March 27, 2006. Behind her are Armenian Minister of Finance and Economy Vardan Khachatryan, delegation member Artashes Emin, and Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) (Gerald Herbert - AP)


     Rice will be in Paris on Thursday for talks with President Jacques Chirac on the Iranian nuclear standoff and other topics. She will only be in the city for a few hours and will not stay overnight.

    The protests by university and high school students over the new law have drawn tens of thousands of demonstrators on recent nights. French police are promising increased surveillance on the country's rail network before nationwide strikes and protests planned for Tuesday.

    "Recent demonstrations have occurred at times in areas frequented by tourists," the U.S. announcement said. "Some of the demonstrations may be announced, while others may be spontaneous. Police have responded by using tear gas. U.S. Embassy personnel have been advised to avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings."

    The announcement expires April 30.

    The jobs law, meant to put the brakes on sky-high unemployment among young people and make France's economy more flexible, would allow employers to more easily hire _ and fire _ workers under age 26. Critics feel it will eat into job protections and leave young workers even more vulnerable.

    Last week, a department warning about travel to Italy became a campaign issue in that country's upcoming national elections.

    The department told Americans that Italy continues to be under heightened public threat by al-Qaida and other Islamic extremists for its continued participation in multinational activities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a Washington ally, defended the U.S. government's right to inform its citizens. His center-left opponent Romano Prodi said the advisory created a climate of fear.

    Source
    washingtonpost




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