3 Million March in France against Cuts in Retirement Benefits

New strikes in France over retirement age

AP

Protestors shout slogans during a march Thursday Sept.23, 2010 in Paris. French commuters squeezed onto limited trains or fought for rare parking spot AP – Protestors shout slogans during a march Thursday Sept.23, 2010 in Paris. French commuters squeezed onto …

PARIS – French authorities estimated nearly 1 million protesters filled the streets Thursday to try to force President Nicolas Sarkozy to drop his plan to raise the retirement age two years to 62, while strikes also disrupted airports, train stations and schools for the second time this month.

The protest movement has been a big test for Sarkozy, who, like other European leaders, has struggled to convince his country of the need for cost-cutting and scaling back generous social benefits after the Greek debt crisis scared markets and sapped confidence in the entire 16-nation euro currency.

France’s powerful unions consider retirement at 60 to be a near-sacred right, and more than 230 demonstrations stretched from the southern port city of Marseille to Lille in the north. Some protesters carried signs demanding early retirement for Sarkozy, whose dismal approval ratings hover in the mid-30s.

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