Nov. 29 - The row over steelmaker Mittal's presence in France has intensified, since Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg said it was no longer welcome in the country, due to years of broken promises. ArcelorMittal has said it will shut down two furnaces in the northeast of the country on December 1 unless the government can find a buyer to operate them. As the deadline approaches, France is debating how to reverse decades of industrial decline and save jobs.
Joining the queue at the unemployment office. Over 3.1 million French are currently out of work - the highest level in 13 years. As the economic slowdown bites - a hot topic for debate is how to reverse decades of industrial decline. Arnaud Montebourg, France's Industry Minister sparked a row when he accused steelmaker Mittal of not keeping its promises to the French government. He recently told business newspaper Les Echos "We no longer want Mittal in France because they haven't respected France." This steel plant at Florange in the north east of the country is at the centre of the dispute. ArcelorMittal says it will close two blast furnaces on Saturday unless the government can find a buyer. Montebourg suggested nationalising the site. That's shocked the French employers' federation. SOUNDBITE: Laurence Parisot, Head of French Employers' Federation, saying (English): "If the idea behind saying this is to exert pressure, to blackmail, at a time of negotiation, then that is unacceptable. It's also a scandal for fundamental reasons, because we have to remember that nationalisation is, as you say, an expropriation." With the deadline approaching, steelworkers don't know what the next few weeks hold. Indian-born billionaire Lakshmi Mittal - who employs 20,000 people in France - was reportedly shocked by the minister's comments. A public dispute with the world's biggest steelmaker doesn't help French President Francois Hollande, who was elected on a pledge to save jobs and keep factories working. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, also waded into the debate during a visit to India. SOUNDBITE: Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, saying (English): "A French minister has been so eccentric as to call for a massive investor to depart from France. I have no hesitation or embarrassment in saying to everyone here 'Venez a Londres, mes amis,' come to London, come to the business capital of the world." France says it is continuing talks with ArcelorMittal to find a buyer for the Florange plant. If the government isn't able to save the jobs, it would be the latest entry in a list of industrial closures. And it's vital for Hollande to prevent any more workers heading to the job centre.