French travelers and tourists were struggling Saturday to get to their destinations as the Christmas season ramped up amid continuing strikes against the government's plans to raise the retirement age to 64.
Train travel problems were slightly eased Saturday with a plan from rail authority SNCF to inform passengers several days in advance and propose ticket exchanges.
Still, only half of the high-speed trains were running and regional trains, including in the Paris region, remained severely disrupted.
In the French capital, eight of the 14 metro lines were closed and many others were running erratically.
In Paris' Saint-Lazare train station, serving western France, Jean Baptiste Beudon was relieved to see his train was not canceled. "We got confirmation two or three days before the departure, but we were still worried to have our train," he told The Associate Press.
Aurelie Lecerf, travelling with her children, said: "We arrived here at six o'clock this morning to get a train. The last one was full but we should get the next one."
Millions of French are expected to travel in the next few days for Christmas family reunions. Many have sought alternative modes of transport, using car-sharing services or bus companies, which have seen a surge in reservations.
Most transport unions have called for the strikes to continue during the holidays, as talks between the prime minister and labor leaders failed to reach a compromise this week.
Recent polls show a majority of French still support the strikes over fears they will have to work longer in return for lower pensions — but a majority are also in favor of the suspension of the protest during the Christmas holidays.
Lebanon's newly designated prime minister began his consultations on Saturday with parliamentary blocs to discuss the shape of the future government.
Hassan Diab, a university professor and former education minister, will have to steer Lebanon out of its worst economic and financial crisis in decades. He's also taking office against the backdrop of ongoing nationwide protests against the country's ruling elite.
The consultations began a day after scuffles broke out in Beirut and other areas between supporters of the outgoing prime minister, Saad Hariri, and Lebanese troops and riot policemen. The ex-premier's supporters were protesting Diab's nomination. The scuffles left at least seven soldiers injured.
Diab began his meetings Saturday at parliament with Speaker Nabih Berri, then held talks with former prime ministers, including caretaker premier Hariri.
The two men had also met the previous day, when Diab said he plans to form a government of experts and independents to deal with the country's crippling economic crisis.
Lebanese banks have imposed unprecedented capital controls over the past weeks. Thousands have lost their jobs, while the economy is expected to contract in 2020.
Hariri cautioned his supports Saturday against violent protests, saying: "The army is ours and police forces are for all Lebanese."
A lawmaker from the bloc led by the Shiite Amal group — headed by parliament speaker Berri — said the incoming government should focus on fighting corruption.
"It should be an emergency government that works on solving the economic, financial, social and banking crisis," said Anwar al-Khalil after the meeting with Diab.
The new prime minister won a majority of lawmakers' votes after receiving backing from the powerful Shiite Muslim group Hezbollah and its allies, which have a majority of seats in parliament.
However, he lacks the support of major Sunni figures, including the largest Sunni party headed by Hariri.
That's particularly problematic for Diab, who, as a Sunni, doesn't have the backing of his own community. And under Lebanon's sectarian power-sharing agreement, the prime minister must be Sunni.
Hezbollah had backed Hariri for prime minister from the start, but the group differed with him over the shape of the new government.
Lebanon's sustained, leaderless protests erupted in mid-October, and forced Hariri's resignation within days. But politicians were later unable to agree on a new prime minister. The ongoing protests and paralysis have worsened the economic crisis.
Three people died during clashes between demonstrators and police in northern India on Saturday, raising the nationwide death toll in protests against a new citizenship law to 17.
O.P. Singh, the chief of police in Uttar Pradesh state, said the latest deaths have increased the death toll in the state to nine. "The number of fatalities may increase," Singh said.
He did not give further details on the latest deaths.
Police said that over 600 people in the state have been taken into custody since Friday as part of "preventive action."
Protesters are angered by a new law that allows Hindus, Christians and other religious minorities who are in India illegally to become citizens if they can show they were persecuted because of their religion in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The law does not apply to Muslims.
Critics have slammed it as a violation of the country's secular constitution and label it the latest effort by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist-led government to marginalize India's 200 million Muslims. Modi has defended the law as a humanitarian gesture.
President Donald Trump is in sunny Florida after his historic impeachment, while plans for his speedy trial back in Washington remained clouded. Senate leaders jockeying for leverage have failed to agree on procedures for the trial.
Trump is still expected to be acquitted of both charges in the Senate, where Republicans have the majority, in what will be only the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history. Proceedings are expected to begin in January.
But the impasse between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer over whether there will be new witnesses and testimony — along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's refusal so far to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate — have left the situation unresolved.
"Nancy Pelosi is looking for a Quid Pro Quo with the Senate. Why aren't we Impeaching her?" Trump tweeted, mocking one of the accusations against him before heading out for a two-week stay at his Mar-a-Lago resort for the holidays.
McConnell, Trump's most powerful GOP ally in the Senate, welcomed the president's emerging defense team Friday for a walk-through of the Senate chamber. White House counsel Pat Cipollone and legislative affairs director Eric Ueland came to Capitol Hill to assess logistics.
A six-term veteran of the Senate, McConnell is acting very much though he has the votes to ensure a trial uncluttered by witnesses — despite the protests of top Democrats Pelosi and Schumer.
"We have this fascinating situation where, following House Democrats' rush to impeachment, following weeks of pronouncements about the urgency of this situation, the prosecutors have now developed cold feet," McConnell, R-Ky., said late Thursday as senators left town for the year.
"We'll continue to see how this develops, and whether the House Democrats ever work up the courage to take their accusations to trial."
McConnell has all but promised an easy acquittal of the president. He appears to have united Republicans behind an approach that would begin the trial with presentations and arguments, lasting perhaps two weeks, before he tries drawing the proceedings to a close. The Senate will reconvene Jan. 3.
That has sparked a fight with Pelosi and Schumer, who are demanding trial witnesses who refused to appear during House committee hearings, including acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton.
"They should have witnesses and documentation," Pelosi told The Associated Press. "This could be something very beneficial to the country, if the facts are there."
Schumer's leverage is limited, though his party can force votes on witnesses once a trial begins. He appears to be counting on public opinion, and political pressure on vulnerable Republican incumbents like Susan Collins of Maine, to give Democrats the 51 votes they need.
"You wouldn't get them to say, 'I'm going to vote to kick President Trump out of office,'" Schumer said in an interview. "But you might get them to vote for witnesses, you might get them to vote for documents, and we'll see where it falls from there."
McConnell isn't budging. After a 20-minute meeting with Schumer on Thursday, he declared the talks at an impasse and instructed senators to return on Jan. 6 ready to vote.
McConnell appears ready to impose a framework drawn from the 1999 trial of Bill Clinton, who was acquitted of two articles of impeachment. That trial featured a 100-0 vote on arrangements that established two weeks of presentations and argument before a partisan tally in which Republicans called a limited number of witnesses, including Monica Lewinsky for a videotaped deposition.
McConnell said Thursday: "I continue to believe that the unanimous bipartisan precedent that was good enough for President Clinton ought to be good enough for this president, too. Fair is fair."
There's a risk that Schumer's protests — which started Sunday with a letter to McConnell requesting four witnesses — could cement GOP unity. Endangered Republican senators including Cory Gardner of Colorado and Martha McSally of Arizona need strong turnout by the GOP base to win, and will be hard-pressed to take Schumer's side.
Trump, meanwhile, has been hoping the trial will serve as an opportunity for vindication. He continues to talk about parading his own witnesses to the chamber, including former Vice President and 2020 Democratic candidate Joe Biden and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who led the fact-finding phase of the impeachment investigation.
There is little appetite for witnesses among McConnell and other key Senate GOP allies, however.
Police in the Indian capital charged more than a dozen people with rioting and the government asked broadcasters to refrain from using content that could inflame further violence as authorities grappled with growing opposition to a new citizenship law that excludes Muslim immigrants.
Six people died during clashes between demonstrators and police in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh on Friday, taking the nationwide death toll to 14.
After thousands took to the streets of Uttar Pradesh, police imposed a British colonial-era law banning the assembly of more than four people is some parts of the state.
In the northeastern border state of Assam, where internet services were restored after a 10-day blockade, hundreds of women staged a sit-in against the law in Gauhati, the state capital.
"Our peaceful protests would continue till this illegal and unconstitutional citizenship law amendment is scrapped," said Samujjal Bhattacharya, the leader of the All Assam Students Union, which organized the rally.
He rejected an offer for dialogue by Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, saying talks cannot take place when the "government was hoping to strike some compromise."
In New Delhi, police said they arrested 15 people in connection with the late Friday night violence in the Daryaganj area during a protest. Those arrested were charged with rioting and using force against police.
The government also issued an advisory asking news channels to refrain from broadcasting content "likely to instigate violence."
India's Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, which released the advisory, asked for its "strict compliance." The ongoing backlash against the law marks the strongest show of dissent against the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi since he was first elected in 2014. Many of the protesters are angered by the new law that allows Hindus, Christians and other religious minorities who are in India illegally to become citizens if they can show they were persecuted because of their religion in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The law does not apply to Muslims.
Critics have slammed it as a violation of the country's secular constitution and label it the latest effort by the Modi government to marginalize India's 200 million Muslims. Modi has defended the law as a humanitarian gesture.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Saturday criticized the law as unfair.
At a news conference following the conclusion of an Islamic summit in Kuala Lumpur, Mahathir said India is a secular state and the religions of people should not prevent them from attaining citizenship.
"To exclude Muslims from becoming citizens, even by due process, I think, is unfair," he said.
Protests against the law come amid an ongoing crackdown in Muslim-majority Kashmir, the restive Himalayan region stripped of its semi-autonomous status and demoted from a state into a federal territory last summer.
They also follow a contentious process in Assam meant to weed out foreigners living in the country illegally. Nearly 2 million people were excluded from an official list of citizens, about half Hindu and half Muslim, and have been asked to prove their citizenship or else be considered foreign.
India is also building a detention center for some of the tens of thousands of people the courts are expected to ultimately determine have entered illegally. Modi's interior minister, Amit Shah, has pledged to roll out the process nationwide.
Critics have said the process is a thinly veiled plot to deport millions of Muslims.