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Learning English - Words in the News
29 March, 2006 - Published 11:31 GMT
Mass protests in France
Protests in Paris
Protests in Paris

The French cabinet is meeting after police last night used teargas against crowds of demonstrators in Paris. It's the latest day of protests against a new employment law which has proved highly controversial. There are also signs of growing disagreement among French ministers on the way ahead. Caroline Wyatt reports.

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The streets around Place de la Republique are quiet once again - but like a genie unleashed from its bottle, the deep discontent across France is proving hard to subdue.

Tuesday's mostly peaceful demonstrations turned to chaos in the very heart of Paris after ordinary demonstrators left the main square, replaced by trouble-makers keen to confront police. Anything that came to hand was used as a weapon: everything from bottles to a bicycle hurled at riot police who fought back with teargas and water cannon.

As the violence ebbed and surged for hours, France's Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, paid a surprise visit to the square to brief and congratulate his men. But this visit was a very public way, too, to put distance between himself and his main rival for the presidency next year – the French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin. He remains the man at the centre of this storm - determined to ride it out, but caught between forces that are proving hard to control.

On one side is the anger on the streets and the fear that the violence will set the suburbs alight again. But pushing him the other way is his desire to be the strong man who reformed France - where all his predecessors failed.

As the nation counts the cost of this latest violence, the President Jacques Chirac will meet the cabinet, to decide 'what next' in these difficult but decisive days for France.

Listen to the words

deep discontent
great unhappiness

hard to subdue
difficult to calm

tear gas and water cannon
methods used to control crowds - tear gas is a kind of spray that makes people's eyes sting and water cannons are machines that spray very strong streams of water at people

ebbed and surged
grew sometimes greater, shrunk sometimes less

put distance between himself and his main rival
make himself seem very different from the key person against him

at the centre of this storm
most affected by the controversy because he is the key person in the middle of it

to ride it out
to survive the difficult situation until it's finished, without having to make big changes

set the suburbs alight again
lead to more protests and violence in areas outside the centre of the city

counts the cost
calculates how much money is needed to repair the damage

the cabinet
the group of most important government ministers (or people) which advises the President

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