French diplomats stage strike over cuts

Thousands of French diplomats from Rome to Riyadh staged an unprecedented strike yesterday over budget cuts that they say make a mockery of Jacques Chirac's bid to boost French influence abroad.

Embassy and consular services were reduced to a minimum in the one-day protest over cutbacks that unions say have even led to paper shortages in some missions.

"The French approach is that you can solve world problems through diplomacy. If that is so, give us the resources," said Yvan Sergeff, of the public sector union USMAE. He said the strike affected 126 of France's 154 embassies, a diplomatic network second in spread only to that of the United States. The Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin, admitted that half of France's diplomats abroad joined the strike.

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