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France approves retirement age rise

France's National Assembly has approved a sweeping retirement reform plan, including a highly contested measure to increase the retirement age from 60 to 62.

The lower house of parliament voted 329-233 to pass the broad retirement package, clearing a crucial first legislative hurdle and sending it on to the Senate for debate starting on October 1.

The vote followed a boisterous overnight session on one of the pillars of conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy's reform agenda, and a prime target of France's powerful unions.

The vote puts France on track to become the latest European Union country to require workers to stay on the job longer because of a deficit-plagued pension system.

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