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French president-elect Sarkozy holds pre-inauguration talks with unions

French President-elect Nicolas Sarkozy was hosting meetings Monday with union leaders, a rare pre-inaugural gesture aimed at defusing possible tensions over his bold economic reform plans.

Ahead of his inauguration Wednesday, the conservative Sarkozy has been reaching across the political divide - with increasing speculation that he could name one or more Socialists in his cabinet.

Labor leaders have criticized Sarkozy's campaign call to require unions in public transport to provide at least minimum service during strikes, which have crippled France in the past.

Sarkozy's office said Sunday the series of meetings with union leaders and heads of business associations Monday and Tuesday were a first step toward preparing his so-called labor "summits" in September over issues like workplace gender equality and a single work contract.

Labor leaders said the talks should be about negotiation and cooperation - not about Sarkozy delivering a fait accompli after his May 6 election victory.

"To take up his campaign slogan, 'Everything is possible'," Jean-Claude Mailly, head of the Worker's Force Union, was quoted as saying in Liberation newspaper Monday.

"Either the Cabinet that he appoints will want to go very fast and impose certain measures, or he will show pragmatism and will open talks, consultations, cooperation on the themes discussed," he said.

Sarkozy is expected to name his prime minister - former Education Minister Francois Fillon is the favorite - shortly after taking office Wednesday, and the full cabinet within the following days.

The opposition left, along with unions, fear that Sarkozy will dismantle coveted benefits to make France's labor system more flexible, and will favor the rich over the poor.

Following the election, leftist militants took to the streets in several cities around France, breaking windows and burning cars.

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