Sarkozy defiant on plan to raise retirement age
France's President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday refused to back down on a bill to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62, despite massive street protests against the measure.
Sarkozy said however that he would include in the reform special exceptions for those who start work younger than 18 and for certain physically demanding jobs.
"The main element of this reform is a new retirement age. This age will be gradually raised... to reach 62 in 2018," Sarkozy said in a statement. "There is no question of backtracking on this point."
Sarkozy's statement, issued after a meeting with ministers, was his first reaction to Tuesday's protests which drew 1.12 million people according to the interior ministry and more than 2.5 million according to unions.
The bill, currently under debate in parliament, is the centrepiece of Sarkozy's reform agenda as he eyes re-election in 2012.
© 2010 AFP