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Hollande promises to fight layoffs
On Bastille Day, French president says jobs are his top priority and dubs automaker Peugeot's job cut "unacceptable".
Last Modified: 14 Jul 2012 19:11
French President Francois Hollande and PM Jean Marc Ayrault attend Bastille Day festivities [Getty Images]

Francois Hollande, the French president, has pledged on the country's national day to fight industrial layoffs and clean up French politics.

The French leader attended the Bastille Day celebrations on Saturday watching troops parade down the Champs Elysees in Paris as jets streamed the national colours overhead.

The Socialist leader's first national day since winning office in May was overshadowed by outcry at mass job cuts
announced by carmaker Peugeot and a scandal over his private life threatening to undermine his image as "Mr Normal".

Reviving the tradition of a July 14 television interview which was scrapped by his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, Hollande said France had to make an "effort" to restore its public finances but ruled out the kind of painful austerity measures driving protests in Spain and Italy.

"My mission is to help France recover and give it a future," Hollande said in the interview. "Jobs are my priority."

Hollande, who pledged during his campaign to lower the highest unemployment level in 12 years, faces a major challenge after Peugeot said on Thursday it would axe 8,000 jobs in France.

Accusing the company's management of strategic errors and misleading the public over its intentions, Hollande said he could not accept the restructuring plan as it stood, and promised public incentives to help French-made cars.

Hollande also promised to reinvigorate French industry and reduce the national debt - but he steered clear of specifics.

Simon McGregor-Wood reports from Paris

Al Jazeera's Simon McGregor-Wood, reporting from Paris, said: "Away from the military parade, this is all about the French celebrating the best of their politics, history and culture."

"But the economic and social challenges facing France are mounting everyday, and the traditional consensus about the French way of life and how best to preserve it, is not as strong as it used to be."

Despite the challenges, Hollande is still enjoying his political honeymoon period. Although with more dire economic news and more jobs set to be shed on the horizon, it is a respite that may not last long.

The socialist president refused to comment on the feud between his current companion and ex-partner, saying that he intended to keep his public and private lives separate.

The French president also spoke about the ongoing Syrian crisis.

"We must continue to apply pressure for the departure of Bashar al-Assad and for a political transition to take place," he said, before warning that "the worst thing that could happen would be to have a civil war".

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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