Deputy's five-week hunger strike scores job pledge

14th April 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 14, 2006 (AFP) - A French deputy on a five-week hunger strike to prevent the closure of a local factory, called off his campaign Friday after the government won a pledge from the plant's Japanese owners to protect the jobs.

PARIS, April 14, 2006 (AFP) - A French deputy on a five-week hunger strike to prevent the closure of a local factory, called off his campaign Friday after the government won a pledge from the plant's Japanese owners to protect the jobs.

"I have just signed the agreement, so I have decided to end my hunger strike. I'm very happy," Jean Lassalle told AFP from his hospital bed, after he was rushed in an ambulance from the National Assembly buildings in Paris.

Lassalle, 52, of the small centre-right UDF party, mounted a high-profile campaign against alleged plans by the Tokyo-based Toyo Aluminium company to close down a factory in his constituency in the Pyrenees mountains.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said Friday he had secured a pledge from the Japanese company that the car-paint factory, which employs some 150 people in the village of Accous, would remain open.

Sarkozy met Friday morning with senior executives from Toyo subsidiary Toyal Europe and the Japanese ambassador to Paris to discuss the matter.

Toyal had planned to open a new factory 65 kilometres away, and Lassalle accused it of planning to shut down the older plant in Accous, where it is the main employer.

Though it has repeatedly denied any closures plans, Toyal agreed on Friday to continue developing its activities in Accous before investing in any other French sites.

"We have been able to find a solution and we are grateful," said Toyal number two Masahiro Aoki, who said he had exchanged words of thanks with President Jacques Chirac after reaching the accord.

"Toyo aluminium, as well as Toyal, have the greatest wish to contribute further to the French economy, and that will also include providing job security," he said.

Since March 7, when Lassalle started his hunger strike on a bench in the National Assembly building, he had taken only water, salt and vitamins and had lost 21 kilos.

"I have no desire to die, but I cannot, after almost 40 days of fast, stop like a sad clown," Lassalle had told France Info shortly before his hospitalisation.

"I am not asking for a victory, I am asking for common sense and honesty to prevail," said the deputy, the son of a shepherd and an agriculture technician by training.

Chirac had telephoned Lassalle Thursday to assure him the government was working towards a solution.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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