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Pumps run dry amid fuel protest


In this story:

Petrol blockades nationwide

Talks fail, protests to continue


RELATED STORIES, SITES Downward pointing arrow


PARIS -- French truck drivers, joined by farmers, taxi drivers and ambulances in some places, blocked oil refineries and depots around France on Monday to protest against high fuel costs.

More than 1,700 vehicles blocked fuel depots and refineries throughout the country in an action which saw pumps run dry in some areas.

The Paris region was the only place spared the protests with only one refinery in the city of Melun, just south of the capital affected, France-Info radio reported.

By mid-morning, police reported several petrol stations had run dry in the Alpine region of Grenoble because of panic buying the day beforehand.

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CNN's Jim Bittermann takes a look at the fuel strikes

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LCI television later reported many stations ran out of diesel fuel in Lyon and Marseille and long queues had built up.

At least one refinery, a Total facility in Lamede in southern France, was under police guard, requisitioned by authorities to ensure continued fuel supplies.

Petrol blockades nationwide

The protest started soon after midnight on Monday in the southeast of the country, at two petrol depots in the Bouches-du-Rhone region, and at a fuel storage facility in Toulouse in the southwest.

In the east of France, about 50 farmers set up a blockade in front of the main petrol depot in the Moselle region.

In Brittany, also in the northwest, protestors blocked two depots in Brest, as well as others in the region, including at the port of Saint Malo. Blockades also sprung up in the central Auvergne and Correze regions, while some 30 trucks blocked the Reithstett refinery in the east of the country near Strasbourg.

Other targets were in the eastern Alsace region, along the Rhone River, the Nice airport on the Mediterranean and along the Franco-Spanish border in the Pyrenees.

The movement followed a week of protests by fishermen, who sought measures to ease the effects of soaring global oil prices, with a blockade of French ports along the English Channel.

Amid cross-Channel traffic chaos the government gave way and agreed to compensate fishermen for a 75 percent rise in the cost of untaxed fuel for their boats.

Talks fail, protests to continue

Transport Minister Jean-Claude Gayssot has met with the leaders of each of three truckers' unions behind the latest protest, but discussions failed to ease the conflict.

One of the unions, the National Federation of Truckers, issued a statement saying they were more determined than ever to continue the protest.

A representative of the union, Yvan Battisatel, told LCI television that the profession was being "strangled."

French truckers say the cost of diesel fuel has risen 40 percent in the past year to about $2.55 per gallon, compared to an average of $1.58 per gallon in the United States.

After Britain, France has the highest fuel taxes in the European Union.

Unlike fishermen, farmers and taxi drivers, truck drivers receive little compensation for fuel taxes. They say fuel costs them 7 percent of their revenues, when it should amount to only 2 percent.

French Finance Minister Laurent Fabius on Thursday announced measures to ease fuel taxes, but truckers and farmers said they did not go far enough.



RELATED STORIES:
Britain tackles France over port blockades
September 2, 2000
Threat to roads after French ports blockade
September 1, 2000

RELATED SITES:
Oil Price Information Service
French prime minister and government

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