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Hundreds of Thousands Protest in France Against Jobs Law

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets of French cities protesting government measures making it easier for companies to fire young workers.

Thousands of police are deployed in Paris and other major cities to prevent violence that marked protests in recent weeks. Labor leaders say more than 200,000 marched through Marseilles and tens of thousands through other cities.

Labor unions called a nationwide general strike Tuesday, affecting public transport and causing significant flight delays. Newspapers also failed to appear.

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin again has offered to hold talks with unions and student leaders. But they have said they will accept nothing less than the law's withdrawal.

But in the first sign of division within the government, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy proposed suspending the law to pave the way for talks.

The law allows companies to hire young workers for a two-year probationary period.

Mr. de Villepin says it is needed in France, where youth unemployment is as high as 50 percent in some places.

Critics say it gives bosses a source of cheap laborers who can be fired for no reason.

The U.S. State Department has alerted American citizens in France of possible violence and to avoid crowds.