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IN THE NEWS - Sarkozy's Economic Plan for France May Depend on June Elections for Parliament

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This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

Nicolas Sarkosy and Tony Blair meet in Paris on May 11, 2007
Nicolas Sarkosy and Tony Blair meet in Paris on May 11, 2007

Nicolas Sarkozy will take office Wednesday as president of France. He supports labor reforms, tax cuts and strong controls over crime and illegal immigration. As interior minister he was known for strongly worded conservative positions on law and order. Now he proposes to liberalize the French economy to better compete in world markets.

Some say his proposed economic reforms could lead to labor unrest. The plan includes a right to work more than thirty-five hours a week.

Before anything, he will need the support of parliament. Legislative elections are in June.

People talk about "Sarkozy the American" because he supports the United States. But the new president says he is going to make the French people proud again of their nation.

Two-term President Jacques Chirac is retiring after twelve years in office.

The president-elect was the candidate of the ruling party, the Union for a Popular Movement. In Sunday's election, Nicolas Sarkozy easily defeated Socialist candidate Segolene Royal with fifty-three percent of the vote.

But his election led to three nights of violence during protests in Paris and other cities. Hundreds of people were arrested.

Mister Sarkozy's election raises concerns for supporters of Turkey's efforts to join the European Union. He is against it. Instead he proposes a "Mediterranean Union" as a bridge between Europe and Africa. The idea is to include Turkey and other Muslim nations, as well as European Union members along the Mediterranean, including France.

Still, officials from Turkey and the European Union say they will push ahead with membership talks. The European Union has also urged patience as Turkey seeks a new president.

Parliament voted Thursday for a proposed constitutional amendment to let the Turkish people elect a new president directly. The ruling AK party proposed it. This comes after the party failed to get parliament to elect Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul.

Opposition parties boycotted the vote. They say he is an Islamist threat to the separation of religion and government in Turkey -- a charge he denies.

President Ahmet Necdet Sezer was to leave office next week. Now he is expected to stay until a new parliament is elected in July. The ruling party wants to hold a presidential election at the same time.

In other news, Tony Blair announced this week when he will resign after ten years as Britain's prime minister. The date is June twenty-seventh. His Labor Party is expected to elect Gordon Brown, currently the treasury chief.

Tony Blair's popularity suffered because of his support for the Iraq war. But he will also be remembered for British economic gains and, among other things, for his work on the Northern Ireland peace agreement.

This week, a government was inaugurated in which Protestant and Roman Catholic leaders will share power in the British province. The hope is for a lasting end to thirty years of conflict.

IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English was written by Jill Moss. I'm Steve Ember.

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