French trains back to normal four days after strike

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PARIS, Nov 26 (Reuters) A normal service was fully restored on France's rail network today, four days after striking transport workers agreed to go back to work to let talks on pension reform run their course.

The crippling nine-day walkout over President Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to end a system of special pension rights has been the biggest challenge yet of his presidency, testing his credibility in implementing sweeping economic reforms.

''There is a return to normal on all lines,'' a spokeswoman for state rail operator SNCF said.

Paris public transport was fully restored over the weekend.

The strike has given way to one month-long talks between the government, transport workers and employers on the detail of the planned reform.

Sarkozy has refused to back down on the main element of his reform -- ending early retirement rights for most workers who have them -- and index-linking their pensions to inflation rather than salaries.

However, he has indicated he is ready to make concessions in other areas, such as pay, and French media have reported that an eventual deal might cost the state rail operator alone 100 million euros (148 million dollars) a year in salary hikes and perks.

REUTERS PD BD1622

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