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Strike deal allows oil deliveries

MARSEILLE, France -- A French port strike, which has blocked the delivery of crude oil, has ended after marathon talks.

The 12-day strike in Marseille, which has the Mediterranean's biggest concentration of oil refineries and petrochemical plants, finished after 14 hours of talks which ran into Sunday morning.

The dispute over pay and working hours featured bitter clashes between the independent port authorities and the main CGT union, and needed a government appointed mediator to step in on Saturday.

The strike had paralysed the French port and affected major oil plants but port officials said they had struck a "reasonable" agreement.

Dockers have started lifting a blockade of the port, which they began on Friday after talks had failed.

The blockade prevented about 40 oil tankers and cargo vessels from entering or leaving.

Marseille is a major container port and a hub for deliveries of crude oil and other supplies.

Oil giants BP, Esso and TotalFinaElf said on Friday they had cut output at nearby refineries as a result of the strike.

Port managers had complained the port was in the hands of "Mafia-style commandos" while the CGT had denounced the use of "strike-breaking lackeys."

The new deal means all Marseille dockers will have the same working week of between 32 and 33 hours, union officials said.

An assembly of Marseille dockers must vote on the deal on Monday before it comes into effect.

But the port authority said strikers had already reopened the port to allow supplies to reach the nearby Esso refinery, which was running dry.


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