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Signs of the Times for Fri, 31 Mar 2006

By Andrew Grice, Political Editor
The Independent
31 March 2006
Tony Blair was warned the presence of British troops in Iraq was fuelling terrorism when he met moderate Muslim leaders on his visit to Indonesia.

The Prime Minister's plans to build bridges as he visited the most populous Muslim nation suffered when he was confronted about Iraq.

After talks in Jakarta, Din Syamsuddin, head of the 30 million-strong Muhammadiyah, Indonesia's second-biggest Muslim group, said the Islamic representatives told Mr Blair: "The British Government must pull its troops out of Iraq because Iraq's occupation will only stimulate radicalism, extremism and terrorism."

Azyumardi Azra, an Islamic scholar, said he told the Prime Minister "his foreign policies were not making the world any safer".

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Comment: 13 and 17-year olds have more sense and compassion than Blair. So much for our wonderful "leaders".

Fri Mar 31, 2006
By Kerstin Gehmlich
French President Jacques Chirac addresses the nation on Friday and is expected to back a youth job law that has driven millions to protest, rather than drop it and risk losing his prime minister.

A top court, the Constitutional Council, on Thursday dismissed legal challenges to the CPE First Job Contract, handing the baton to the president.

Parliamentary sources said they expected him to sign the law which includes the CPE before explaining his decision on television at 1:00 p.m. EST.

If he signs, Chirac is likely to face more protests. If he withdraws the law, he could lose conservative Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, a long-time ally seen as the man he would like eventually to succeed him.

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By John Lichfield in Paris
The Independent
31 March 2006
Despite signs of spreading youth unrest, President Jacques Chirac is expected to sign into law today the "easy hire, easy fire" jobs contract for the young which has plunged France into political and social crisis.

But President Chirac - in a gamble which may backfire - is expected to call an immediate "social" conference to try to negotiate a replacement for the law that he will have just signed.

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March 31, 2006
PARIS - A 22 year-old French man went on trial in the Paris suburb of Creteil Friday accused of burning a teenage girl to death in a crime that became an emblem of the sufferings of young women in poor French neighbourhoods.

Prosecutors say that in October 2002 Jamal Derrar doused 17 year-old Sohane Benziane with petrol at the foot of a tower-block in Vitry-sur-Seine, southeast of Paris, and set her on fire. She died two hours later in hospital.

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