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Air France pilots strike adds to Euro 2016 woes

French pilots have started a 4-day strike, disrupting travel for fans coming to the country for the Euro 2016 soccer Championships. Strike, fears of terrorism and flooding have overshadowed the start of the tournament.

Up to a fifth of flights are canceled Saturday, Air France said, both domestic and international. The airline strikes start on the back of a 10-day train strike that has caused travel disruption, and a strike by garbage workers.

Fans arriving for the Euro 2016 tournament were met by piles of rubbish left on the streets of Paris and Marseille after strikers blockaded incineration plants.

Watch video 02:03

Strikes at Euro 2016

The head of the CGT union Philippe Martinez, who leads the opposition to the labor market reforms being pursued by the government, vowed not to be "blackmailed with the Euros." The influential CGT union said it could meet with the government over the weekend.

About 25 percent of Air France pilots are striking to demand better working conditions.

Air France CEO Frederic Gagey has promised that more than 80 percent of flights would operate.

Football up and going

Meanwhile, police were on high alert in the southern city of Marseille, where England and Russia supporters clashed and hurled bottles at officers in a second night of violence before their first game. Seven fans were arrested, police said.

The unrest came a day after around 250 England fans pelted police with cans outside a bar in the Vieux-Port area.

The tournament is expected to attract about two million foreign visitors for the matches at 10 venues nationwide. Some 90,000 police and private security guards are being deployed to protect players and supporters, including 13,000 in Paris alone.

President Francois Hollande hailed the "smooth" start to the tournament on Friday. "France needs the championships to be a sporting success but also a big event for the people," he said.

France has been under a state of emergency since attacks by Islamic State jihadists in November killed 130 people.

jbh/rc (AFP, AP, dpa)

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