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The Latest: Macron says state to take over some of rail debt

PARIS — The Latest on Macron’s televised appeareance (all times local):

12:30 a.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron is trying to ease the anger of striking French railway workers who oppose a planned extensive reform of their profession.

Macron announced Sunday night that the French state will take over part of the multibillion-dollar debt of France’s national SNCF rail company, starting in 2020. The debt takeover was one of the railway unions’ demands.

The president also said he wanted to reassure railway workers that SNCF would remain a national railway company with 100 percent of its shares public.

Macron said privatizing SCNF “does not make sense.” His comments came during a live interview on French TV channel BFM and online investigative website Mediapart.

The French leader did confirm plans to revoke a special status that allows rail drivers to retain jobs and other benefits for life. The government wants to do away with the protections to make the rail sector more competitive.

The railway unions began national rolling strikes earlier this month.

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10 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron says the joint military strikes by the U.S., France and Britain against Syrian targets were led in retaliation after the Allies got evidence the government of Bashar Assad used chemical weapons against his own people.

Macron said the strikes were “retaliation, not an act of war” in a live interview Sunday on French TV channel BMF and online investigative site Mediapart.

The president says the allies had “full international legitimacy to intervene” in Syria because the strikes were about enforcing international humanitarian law.

The French leader said the allies were forced to act without an explicit mandate from the U.N. because of the “constant stalemate of the Russians” in the Security Council.

Macron says the allies “arrived at a time when these strikes had become indispensable.”

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7:50 p.m.

Almost one year into his term, French President Emmanuel Macron will discuss the airstrikes in Syria and defend an economic reform agenda that has prompted widespread worker strikes.

Macron was scheduled to make a television appearance on Sunday night. It will be his first since the U.S., France and the U.K. launched the airstrikes early Saturday.

The 40-year-old leader is expected to explain his decision to join the operation, the biggest test yet of his foreign policy.

In the domestic field, he is likely to highlight France’s improved economic environment, despite simmering anger over his labor law changes.

Retirees, hospital workers, students and others have taken to the streets to protest his government’s planned reforms.

Train workers have launched on-and-off strikes over a railway labor reform plan, disrupting traffic nationwide.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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