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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 February, 2005, 15:12 GMT
Strike threat to Paris 2012 bid
Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe below Paris 2012 logo
Paris mayor Delanoe: "Everybody here wants the games"
French unions have rejected calls to shelve strikes planned for the day the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is due in Paris to assess its bid.

Seven unions are to take part in marches and stoppages on 10 March, to protest against government moves to relax France's 35-hour working week.

The government denounced the planned strikes, saying they could spoil Paris' chances of hosting the 2012 Olympics.

Unions say the protests will be called off if their demands are met.

The strikes will affect public transport - traditionally considered crucial in a candidate city's Olympic bid.

'A blow for France'

Education Minister Francois Fillon appealed to unions not to disrupt the IOC's visit.

Philippe Goujon, of the governing Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party, said it was "a damaging blow to the Paris bid".

Fellow UMP member Claude Goasguen urged the unions "to review their position, which places them in direct contradiction, not only with Paris, but France as a whole".

He added: "It would be better to present to the IOC delegation a city that is calm."

Paris is widely considered the frontrunner for the honour, ahead of London, Madrid, New York and Moscow.

So far the unions are refusing to yield.

"If the government doesn't want people in the streets, it must meet workers' demands," said Jean-Claude Mailly, head of the Force Ouvriere union.

"This attempt to politicise the IOC's visit shows it (the government) is starting to panic."

Bertrand Delanoe, the Socialist mayor of Paris, was confident the strikes would not affect the IOC's visit.

"Unions have made clear their support for the Paris bid and their desire not to disrupt to work of the commission," he said.

One of the largest unions, the CFTC, has asked its own members to restrict their protest to work stoppages, and not to join marches, so as not to harm the bid.



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