Sunday, March 19, 2006

French and Turkish protesters clash in demo crash

Sat 18 Mar 2006 11:15 AM ET

LYON, France, March 18 (Reuters)
- French youths protesting against a new employment law ended up in an unexpected clash with Turks demonstrating against an Armenian memorial when their separate marches crossed paths in this eastern city on Saturday.

Riot police used water cannon to separate the two groups after about 2,500 Turks opposed to the construction of a memorial in the city centre to Armenian victims of a 1915 massacre attacked the demonstrating youths, police said.

The Turks, waving Turkish flags and holding up posters saying "There was no Armenian genocide," reacted after youths denounced them as "fascists" and yelled "go home!", police said.

Both sides pelted each other with missiles and engaged in fist fights, they said, adding that some youths protesting the employment law were apparently of Armenian origin.

Turkey rejects charges that it massacred 1.5 million Armenians living in the then Ottoman Empire in 1915.

Many of the survivors fled to France, which now has an influential Armenian minority of about 300,000. After a long campaign by them, the French parliament passed a bill in 1998 officially recognising the killing as genocide.

The protest against the new employment law was one of many marches across France on Saturday aimed at putting pressure on the Paris government to withdraw the measure that allows employers to fire workers under 26 more easily.

The conservative government introduced the law to encourage reluctant employers to take on new staff and help combat unemployment, which among young people is double the national average of 9.6 percent.

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