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Vandalism Mars French Rail Strike as Talks Open

France says coordinated acts of sabotage in the country's strike-crippled high-speed rail network are spawning further delays in restoring service.

The accusations were made Wednesday as government officials and labor representative opened talks on ending France's worst labor strife in years.

The national rail authority (SNCF) said arsonists had damaged several installations on the high-speed (TGV) rail network to prevent the resumption of regular service.

Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau condemned the apparently coordinated acts. Union leaders also denounced the attacks.

The majority of railway personnel returned to work Wednesday, along with civil servants who joined the transit strike for one day on Tuesday to demand pay raises and to protest job cuts.

The strikes have been the biggest challenge to President Nicolas Sarkozy's government since his election in May.

The president, bolstered by polls showing a majority supports the reforms, said Tuesday he would not abandon his reform plan. But he signaled that he could make concessions in some areas.

Analysts have called the strikes a catastrophe that cost the French economy about $400 million a day.

Strikes in 1995 forced then-President Jacques Chirac to back down from reform plans.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.