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Large protests in France sink King Charles’ first foreign trip as monarch

Widespread protests against pension reform in France led to the postponement of King Charles III’s trip to the country, highlighting the growing security and political problems faced by President Emmanuel Macron.

Charles’ first foreign trip as monarch had been intended to highlight warming Franco-British relations, but it has instead served to underline the severity of demonstrations engulfing Britain’s neighbour.

“I think we would not be serious and lack common sense to propose to His Majesty the King and the Queen Consort to come do a state visit in the middle of the demonstrations,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in response to questions at a European Union summit in Brussels.

The decision was taken so that the king could be hosted “under circumstances that suit our friendly relationship,” the statement read, recalling that new strikes in France are planned for March 28.

Macron said the state visit could be rearranged for early summer.

The protests and labour strikes against Macron’s decision to raise France’s retirement age from 62 to 64 already had promised to impact the king’s visit, with workers refusing to roll out the red carpet for the king’s arrival.

Macron condemned the protests, which at time turned physical, saying “violence has no place in a democracy.”

Although no major protests were planned for Friday, train traffic was slowed, rows of trucks blocked access to Marseille’s port for several hours and debris still littered the streets of Paris following the previous day’s mass demonstrations.

READ MORE: Protests turn violent in France as pensions fury rages against Macron

More than 450 people were arrested on Thursday and 441 members of the security forces were injured during the most violent day of protests since the start of the year against Macron’s retirement plan.

More than 900 fires were also lit around Paris, with anarchist groups blamed for setting uncollected rubbish ablaze and smashing shop windows, leading to frequent clashes with riot police.

In southwestern Bordeaux, protesters set fire to the ancient wooden entrance to city hall, briefly raising fears for the whole building until firefighters arrived to extinguish it.

Charles III had been set to visit the building on Tuesday after a day in Paris on Monday when he was scheduled to address the Senate and attend a state banquet at the Palace of Versailles.

“State visits are a time for celebration and this was not the moment,” a former British ambassador to France, Peter Ricketts, wrote on Twitter.

The second leg of Charles’ European tour -to Germany- is expected to proceed as scheduled on Wednesday.

READ MORE: Anger at Macron mounts as French unions hold new protests

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