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French strikes to continue over Christmas

STRIKES against the French government’s attack on pensions are continuing over the Christmas period with just half of the country’s high-speed trains running and major disruption to local travel.

President Emmanuel Macron, speaking from Ivory Coast during a tour of west African countries which includes visiting French soldiers stationed in the region, asked for a “truce” until the new year, after talks between ministers and unions went nowhere last week.

Philippe Martinez, general secretary of labour federation CGT, said unions were preparing for another day of demonstrations on January 9.

Three previous protest days have seen hundreds of thousands march in Paris and elsewhere.

“Prime Minister [Edouard Philippe] hasn’t heard what the street is saying,” Mr Martinez said. Polls show the strikes have retained support from a big majority of French citizens, despite the severe disruption to transport.

Mr Macron left the country to visit Ivory Coast and Niger, where he held talks on the growing power of jihadist movements in west Africa.

French soldiers claimed to have killed 33 extremists in Mali over the weekend.

During his visit, Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara announced that the west African CFA franc, a currency pegged to the euro (and formerly to the franc) that is used in eight countries, will be renamed the “eco” next year and all French officials will withdraw from its decision-making bodies.

The currency, like the central African CFA franc used by a further six countries, was guaranteed by the French Treasury and user countries had to deposit half of all their foreign reserves there, in a set-up designed to perpetuate French economic domination following decolonisation.

The new currency will still be pegged to the euro, but the foreign reserves obligation will end.

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