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40 injured in Paris clashes between police, protesters

Gorkha Post

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PARIS — Forty people were injured and dozens arrested Tuesday as violence between riot police and masked troublemakers gripped huge Paris protests over France`s labor reforms.

Police fired water cannon in the south of the capital to quell rioters as “several hundred” masked protesters lobbed objects at security forces in bloody scenes in the French capital.

As tens of thousands of people took to the streets in nationwide protests against the controversial labour reforms, strikes closed the Eiffel Tower and disrupted transport links.

Police said 29 members of the security forces were among those wounded in Paris, while three cars were burned on the city streets.

The international spotlight is on France as the host of the Euro 2016 football championships, which have also been marred by violence between fans.

Tens of thousands of fans are continuing to pour into the country for Europe`s showcase football event.

In Paris, several demonstrators stormed a building site and hurled wooden pallets at riot police.

Protesters shouting “Paris, rise up” and “everyone hates the police” smashed shop windows and targeted banks in running battles with officers.

One man was led away by officers in riot gear with blood dripping from a wound above his eye onto his white T-shirt.

The strikes were the latest in months of industrial action that have caused severe disruptions to air and rail transport, hit fuel supplies and led to mountains of rubbish on the streets of Paris.

“I`ve been to all the demos since March because I want to live in dignity, not just survive,” said Aurelien Boukelmoune, a 26-year-old technician marching in Paris.

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“I want the reforms to be withdrawn, pure and simple. Only then will it stop. For the government`s sake, they should withdraw the law, otherwise we`ll block the economy.”

Police and organisers gave wildly different figures for the turnout, with unions saying 1.3 million people had turned out across France but police estimating the crowds at 125,000 or more, some 80,000 of them in Paris.With France on high alert over fears of attacks during Euro 2016, overstretched security forces had feared the demonstrations could turn violent and banned 130 known troublemakers from taking part.

The terrorism threat was thrust back into the spotlight after a man claiming allegiance to the Islamic State group stabbed to death a police couple at their home in a northwestern Paris suburb late Monday.

The latest in a wave of protests that began in March coincides with a French Senate debate on the reforms, which are aimed at making the job market more flexible and reducing high unemployment but which critics see as too pro-business.

President Francois Hollande`s Socialist government voiced hope the latest day of protest would be a last stand for the movement.

But Philippe Martinez, head of the far-left CGT union that spearheaded last month`s blockades of fuel depots and an ongoing rail strike, had promised a “very strong mobilisation.”

In Marseille, organisers said 140,000 turned out, compared with a police estimate of 5,000.

Two further protest days are set for later this month. At a time when the French capital would normally be reaping the benefits of high-season tourism boosted by the football, the demonstrations have dampened the flow to the world`s most-visited city.

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Several staff at the Eiffel Tower went on strike, leaving insufficient numbers to open the monument safely, according to its operator, SETE.

Adding to the climate of discontent, rail workers continued strike action to protest working conditions. They were joined at the weekend by a minority of Air France pilots.

AFP

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South Korea to announce joint military drill plan with US before April

Thompson Reuters

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SEOUL — South Korea and the United States will announce plans before April for a postponed joint military drill, South Korea’s defense minister said on Tuesday.

Seoul and Washington had agreed to postpone the regular joint military exercise until after the Winter Olympics and Paralympics being hosted in South Korea, which end on March 18.

After the decision to delay the joint exercise, North Korea agreed to hold the first official talks with South Korea in more than two years and send athletes to the Winter Games, easing a standoff over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programmes.

Asked when the two countries will hold the postponed drill, Song Young-moo told parliament he and his U.S. counterpart, Jim Mattis, would make an announcement between March 18 and the start of April.

“The exercise was postponed according to the spirit of the Olympics,” Song said. “We have agreed to uphold the basis until after the Paralympics…and not to confirm nor deny anything regarding what we would do after that until we announce it”.

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Song added inter-Korean talks had not come about as a direct result of the postponed drill.

But North Korea has warned it would not sit idle if the United States and South Korea push ahead with the postponed military exercises.

North Korea denounces the drills as preparations to invade it, and it has at times conducted missile tests or taken other aggressive action in response.

The South Korean and US militaries usually hold military exercises called Key Resolve and Foal Eagle in March and April, which can involve as many as 17,000 US troops and more than 300,000 South Koreans.

South Korea’s Unification Minister Cho Myong-gyon said talks to stage the postponed military drill were moving forward.

“I am aware negotiations are moving towards a direction where the drills will be held,” Cho said in a separate parliamentary session on Tuesday, without elaborating.

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