Prime minister to meet unions over job law

France's embattled prime minister faced a tough and potentially pivotal meeting Friday with unions demanding that he toss out a divisive new jobs law after protests turned bloody and left a Paris park littered with shattered glass and ashes.

It will be the first time Dominique de Villepin sits down with leading unions since he introduced the "first job contract" in January. The face-off over the law, which makes it easier for companies to hire, and fire, young workers, has thrown the conservative government into a crisis and fanned student blockades at dozens of universities.

Rioters mixed in with demonstrators protesting against the law turned a park in front of Napoleon's tomb into a battlefield on Thursday.

Youths with baseball bats attacked student demonstrators and others hurled chunks of concrete at riot police, who responded with baton charges and tear gas.

At least 60 protesters and police were injured, police said. One demonstrator was hospitalized with serious head injuries, according to the Paris hospital network. A protester injured at Saturday's march remained in a coma.

Both the government and the unions are increasingly worried that the violence could spin beyond their control, increasing pressure on both sides to seek a way out of the impasse.

"The government's obstinacy is creating an extremely dangerous situation that is sinking into further violence and further danger," the Socialist mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, said on Europe 1 radio Friday.

"The main government actors should take this seriously, beyond their political calculations."

Unions accepted an invitation from Villepin to meet, but said they would only restate their stance and would not negotiate unless he scraps the law. Unions plan a national strike on Tuesday.

Sporadic clashes between youths and police in the last 10 days have been reminiscent of the riots that swept across impoverished French suburbs last fall. Those riots were blamed partly on high youth unemployment, which the government says the new jobs law is aimed at reducing by giving employers more flexibility and encouraging them to hire, reports the AP.

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