PARIS: Paris’s Eiffel Tower will close on Saturday over fears of fresh violence during nationwide protests against President Emmanuel Macron, as police urged shops and restaurants on the Champs-Elysees to shut their doors too.
Around a dozen museums across the capital have also said they will remain closed on Saturday after vandalism and clashes between protesters and police last week rocked France.
The announcements came as around 200 high schools across the country remained blocked or disrupted by students protesting a raft of education overhauls, on a fourth day of action called to coincide with the anti-government demonstrations.
An interior ministry official told AFP earlier that authorities were bracing for “significant violence” on Saturday, based on indications that protesters on both the far right and far left are planning to converge on the capital.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told senators Thursday that “exceptional measures” would be taken to avoid the daylong street battles seen last weekend, with 65,000 police deployed across the country.
Shops along the Champs-Elysees as well as popular shopping streets near the iconic avenue were told to keep their doors closed, protect exposed windows and remove any outdoor furniture including tables and chairs, according to the police notices seen by AFP.
The move is likely to cost businesses thousands of euros in lost revenue as tourists and locals alike stay clear during a second holiday weekend in a row.
The Eiffel Tower said it would stay shut Saturday, and both the Garnier and Bastille opera houses have cancelled performances scheduled for Saturday.
Shops are also expected to close in other cities, with officials in Bordeaux, southwest France, already warning that museums, libraries and theatres will remain shut.
A Paris Saint-Germain football game against Montpellier scheduled for Saturday has also been postponed after a request by Paris police, and some schools near the Champs-Elysees have called off Saturday classes.
Two of Paris’s main attractions, the Louvre and Orsay museums, are still weighing whether or not to close.
The “yellow vest” protests began on November 17 in opposition to rising fuel taxes, but they have since ballooned into a broad challenge to Macron’s pro-business agenda and style of governing.
The government announced Wednesday it would cancel planned increases in fuel tax due to take effect in January in a bid to appease the mostly low-income protesters from small-town and rural France.
But the concession failed to quell the anger behind a movement which has retained broad public support, with an opinion poll this week showing 72 percent backed the protests despite last weekend’s violence.
The “yellow vests” have also spurred other protests, in particular students demanding an end to testing overhauls and stricter university entrance requirements.
Dozens of people wearing face masks threw Molotov cocktails, torched rubbish bins and clashed with police outside schools in several cities Thursday ahead of a call for nationwide demonstrations on Friday.
“We’re the ones who are going to eventually have to pay higher fuel prices,” said Ines, one of around 150 high school students demonstrating in the southern Paris suburb of Cachan.
Farmers have also called for demonstrations every day next week, while two truck driver unions plan an indefinite sympathy strike from Sunday night.
Meanwhile yellow-vest blockades at fuel depots have caused shortages in Brittany, Normandy, and southeast regions of France.
Political leaders from across the spectrum have appealed for calm, after four people died in accidents during protests and hundreds have been injured.
On Thursday a yellow-vest representative, Benjamin Cauchy, called on Macron to meet a delegation of protesters Friday to help defuse a situation that he said had brought the country “to the brink of insurrection and civil war.”
“We’re asking him to meet us to negotiate on spending power, which is what underpins all this anger,” Cauchy told the Media.
Macron, whose approval ratings are down to just 23 percent, has not commented publicly since Saturday on the deepest crisis of his presidency so far.
But members of his government have signalled they are ready to make further concessions to avoid new violence after the U-turn on fuel tax increases.
But Macron’s office said he told ministers he would stick to his decision to cut a “fortune tax” on high-earners, which the former investment banker abolished last year.
Restoring the wealth tax has become one of the core demands of the “yellow vests,” alongside the fuel tax rollback and an increase in the minimum wage.
Tokyo bourse closes in the green
TOKYO: Shares edged up today with investors expressing relief as US President Donald Trump appeared to take a softer stance on his thorny trade dispute with Japan.
The key Nikkei 225 index rose 0.31 percent, or 65.36 points, to close at 21,182.58, while the broader Topix index was up 0.38 percent, or 5.79 points, at 1,547.00.
“Players were relieved as President Trump did not take a tough stance on the US-Japan trade issue,” Daiwa Securities chief technical analyst Eiji Kinouchi told AFP.
After a fun-filled weekend of golf and sumo, Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held formal talks Monday, with trade and tensions with North Korea topping the agenda.
Ahead of their talks, Trump hinted that tough negotiations on their bilateral trade could wait until after July elections in Japan.
Trump tweeted: “Great progress being made in our Trade Negotiations with Japan. Agriculture and beef heavily in play.”
In remarks after the closing bell, Trump also told reporters: “We hope to have even more to announce on the trade, very very soon.”
The dollar fetched 109.52 yen in Asian afternoon trade, against 109.29 yen in New York late Friday.
In Tokyo, Nissan was up 0.97 percent at 747.8 yen after news that its French alliance partner Renault and Italian-US auto giant Fiat Chrysler are weighing a potential merger.
Its rival Toyota gained 0.79 percent to 6,554 yen while Honda was down 1.11 percent at 2,759 yen.
Takeda Pharmaceutical jumped 2.46 percent to 3,942 yen while telecom and investment firm SoftBank Group was up 1.65 percent at 10,465 yen.
Dep. PM of Uzbekistan arrives in Islamabad
ISLAMABAD: Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan Elyor Ganiev has arrived here today on a two-day visit to Pakistan.
Elyor Ganiev is accompanied by a high-level delegation comprising Deputy Ministers for Investment and Foreign Trade, Transport and other senior officials.
He is scheduled to meet a number of Federal Ministers and Advisers. He will hold consultations with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. The talks will focus on discussing ways and means to further bolster the bilateral relations between Pakistan and Uzbekistan.
A relevant piece published earlier:
Govt. to further strengthen Sino-Pak partnership
ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has expressed the govt’s commitment to further strengthen Sino-Pak strategic partnership.
He was addressing Friends of Silk Road Forum organized in honor of visiting Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan here today.
The Foreign Minister said both countries are observing 2019 as a year of mutual relations and it is expected that people to people contacts will reach a new level.
Shah Mehmood Qureshi said CPEC has helped to strengthen bilateral relations and take economic and social development to new heights.
He said the CPEC has entered into its second phase which focuses on industrial, social and economic cooperation. He expressed the confidence that Special Economic Zones will pave way for the progress of Pakistan.
Foreign Minister said the government has a special focus on poverty alleviation, industrial development, education, technology, scientific innovation, and agricultural development.
He said both the countries have common thinking of improving the living standard of their people. He hoped that the development target will be achieved by mutually harnessing the capabilities of the two countries.
Foreign Minister paid rich tributes to the services of the Chinese Vice President in promoting the strategic partnership between the two countries.
A relevant piece published earlier: