Coordinated acts of sabotage struck France's high-speed trains, causing further delays to services already widely disrupted by strikes, just as talks were opening Wednesday to coax unions into ending their walkout.
The national SNCF rail authority stopped short of blaming strikers for the overnight vandalism, which it said included the burning of electric cables and damage to signaling systems. Labor unions quickly denied any connection.
Nevertheless, the attacks added a new note of ill will before talks Wednesday between unions and the companies worst hit by the strike — the Paris transit authority and the SNCF.
The SNCF called the vandalism a "coordinated sabotage campaign." The boss of the powerful CGT union, Bernard Thibault, condemned the attacks but also suggested they may have been designed to discredit the strike movement.
Train drivers, Paris Metro employees and certain other public employees have been staying off the job to protest President Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to trim their retirement benefits.
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