Chirac signs off new jobs law then calls for rethink

FRENCH president Jacques Chirac signed a contested measure to promote jobs for youths into law yesterday.

The measure known as the First Job Contract has prompted students and unions to protest in the streets. Another round of nationwide demonstrations is set for tomorrow to try to force the government to repeal the law.

Mr Chirac said he signed the contested law out of respect, he said, for French institutions, noting that it had been passed by parliament and approved by the Constitutional Council. However, he asked that it not be applied.

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Mr Chirac's double-barreled approach was designed as a face-saving measure for the law's architect, prime minister Dominique de Villepin, but widely perceived as a put-down. Another decision to turn the devising of a second bill over to parliament was viewed as a further insult to Mr de Villepin.